Turkmenistan Table of Contents
The current government has an aggressive program aimed at developing a transport infrastructure both within the republic and to the outside world (see Foreign Trade; Foreign Policy, this ch.). The highest priorities of this program are railroads and interstate gas pipelines. The capabilities of the various components of Turkmenistan's transport system to carry freight are indicated by the following percentages: railroads 37.4 percent, highways 56.1, pipelines 4.4, and internal waterways 2.0. In the early 1990s, air transport accounted for only 0.02 percent of total freight.
Turkmenistan inherited from the Soviet Union 2,120 kilometers of railways, all 1,000-millimeter gauge, a length insufficient to serve even the current economy of the republic. In addition, it received 13,000 highly depreciated railway cars, outdated signaling and communications systems, and deteriorating depots. The Ashgabat line of the Central Asian Railway has been especially neglected and poorly administered. In 1993 the State Railway Administration assumed responsibility for the railroad system, and moved immediately to join the International Union of Railroads. Membership in this organization will alleviate the problem of standardization created by Turkmenistan's wider Soviet-gauge rails and rolling stock, which do not match the specifications of non-CIS neighbors.
The primary railroad line in Turkmenistan is the Turkmenbashy-Ashgabat-Chärjew Line, which links Turkmenistan with Uzbekistan and European countries. It was built in the 1880s as a military line to facilitate Russian maneuvers in the "Great Game" played with the British Empire over dominance of Central Asia. Other major lines are the Mary-Gushgy Line and the Bukhoro-Kerki-Termez Line (via the Chärjew Line), both of which provide transport to the Afghani border, while smaller branch lines such as the Nebitdag-Vyshka railroad are used to transport oil, workers, and supplies.
Plans call for building 1,000 kilometers of new rail lines, improving signaling and communications, reconstructing depots, and computerizing operations. One priority in railroad development is the construction or expansion of branch lines and links with Turkey via Iran; in the mid-1990s, new lines were underway at Saragt, Kerki, Kernay, Kulisol, Gyzylgaya, and Gyzyletrek, some of which will be combined and linked to the West Kazakstan Line along the Caspian Sea. Efforts also are being made to overhaul and acquire rolling stock.
Data as of March 1996