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Transportation and Telecommunications

Uzbekistan inherited Soviet-era methodology and systems in both its transportation and telecommunications networks. That legacy has meant a gradual process of reorientating lines whose configuration was determined by Uzbekistan's need for a primary connection with the Russian Republic of the Soviet Union.


The Soviet legacy included a relatively solid transportation and communications infrastructure in Uzbekistan, at least relative to other less developed countries. The landlocked position of the country determines Uzbekistan's transportation needs, especially as commercial ties are sought with more distant partners in the post-Soviet era. On the eve of independence in 1991, Uzbekistan could boast an extensive railway and road network that connected all parts of the country. Rail transport is the major means of freight transport within Uzbekistan, but the country has an extensive road network as well. On the eve of independence, Uzbekistan had close to 3,500 kilometers of rail lines and nearly 80,000 kilometers of roads. Most cities and urban settlements in Uzbekistan also provided local transportation networks. In 1991, some seventy-three of 123 urban settlements offered their citizens internal bus transport, and more than 100 offered transport on trolley lines. Although the structure of national transportation is regarded as adequate, much transportation equipment and application technology is of 1950s and 1960s vintage (see fig. 14).


In 1990 railroads carried about 75 percent of Uzbekistan's freight, excluding materials carried by pipeline. In 1993 the rail system included about 3,500 kilometers of track, of which 270 kilometers were electrified. More than 600 mainline engines served the system. However, an estimated 1,000 kilometers of track require rehabilitation, and 40 percent of the locomotive fleet has exceeded its service life.

Because the main line connecting Uzbekistan with the Black Sea crosses the Turkmenistan border twice, the withdrawal of the latter country from the Central Asia rail system in 1992 cut that line (which also must pass through Kazakstan and Russia) into several parts. The segments now are alternately controlled by the Turkmenistani or the Uzbekistani national railroad authorities. The Transcaspian Railroad between the Amu Darya in the southwest and Tashkent in the northeast is the main transportation route within Uzbekistan, connecting Bukhoro and Samarqand in the south with the capital city in the northeast. The Transcaspian line also has two major spurs to other parts of the country. One spur runs southeast from Kagan, near Bukhoro, through Qarshi to Termiz, reaching the southeastern oases of the Qashqadaryo and Surkhondaryo valleys. The second spur branches from the main Samarqand-Tashkent line east of Jizzakh, passing northward to serve the Fergana Valley cities of Angren, Andijon, Farghona, and Namangan.

In the Fergana Valley, a number of short spurs reach the local mining centers of that region. The Kazalinsk line goes northwest from Tashkent, across Kazakstan and into Russia; its main role is moving cotton to the Russian mills. Especially for natural gas, a pipeline network also is well developed, linking Uzbekistan to the neighboring Central Asian countries and to the central regions of the former European Soviet Union and the Urals. The share of the railroads in passenger transportation is much more modest than that in freight transportation; in 1990 less than one-third of passenger kilometers was traveled on the rails.


The road network in Uzbekistan includes approximately 67,000 kilometers of surfaced roads and an additional 11,000 kilometers of unsurfaced roads. At a density of about six kilometers per 1,000 inhabitants, the network is about twice as dense as the average for the entire Soviet Union in 1991 and about the same density as the current average for East European countries. (Density by territory is about half that of Eastern Europe.)

The highway system carries about one-fourth of freight traffic and about two-thirds of all passenger traffic (of which the bulk is accounted for by bus lines.) The three major stretches of highway are the Great Uzbek Highway, which links Tashkent and Termiz in the far southeast; the Zarafshon Highway between Samarqand and Chärjew in northeastern Turkmenistan; and the connector road between Tashkent and Quqon. The Samarqand-Chärjew route connects with a road that roughly parallels the northwestward course of the Syrdariya along the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan border, passing through Urganch and Nukus before ending at Muynoq, just south of the Aral Sea. The Fergana Ring connects industries and major settlements in the Fergana Valley.

Air Travel

In 1993 Uzbekistan had nine civilian airports, of which four were large enough to land international passenger jets. Tashkent's Yuzhnyy Airport, the largest in the country, now serves as a major air link for the other former republics of the Soviet Union with South Asia and Southeast Asia, as well as a major hub linking Central Asia with Western Europe and the United States. The addition of Tashkent to the flight routes of Germany's national airline, Lufthansa, greatly increased this role, and Uzbekistan's own airline, Uzbekistan Airways, flies from Tashkent and Samarqand to major cities in Western Europe and the Middle East. In 1994 its fleet included about 400 former Soviet aircraft, including the Yakovlev 40, Antonov 24, Tupolev 154, Ilyushin 62, 76, and 86, and two French Airbus A310-200s.

Transportation Policy

Because of the country's long political isolation from its historical trading partners to the south, Uzbekistan's transportation infrastructure, aside from air transport, is largely designed to tie the region to Russia. The only rail outlets are northward. Uzbekistan's nearest rail-connected ports are in St. Petersburg, 3,500 kilometers to the northwest; the Black Sea ports, 3,000 kilometers to the west; and Vladivostok and the main Chinese ports, 5,000 kilometers to the northeast and east, respectively. Moscow is 3,500 kilometers away. Such distances add significantly to export prices. For example, the transportation of one ton of cotton sold in Western Europe adds as much as US$175 to the selling price. Land routes to potential customers rely on the stability and the transport system reliability of the several countries through which Uzbekistani goods must pass. Because of these conditions, transportation planners have emphasized the availability of alternative routes and modes, relying mainly on roads and railroads. To improve versatility, in 1993 the national airline signed intergovernmental treaties with China, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Turkey.

Connections with the Iranian rail system and with the Pakistani highway system are in the long-term planning stage. Under discussion is a series of rail links that would connect Central Asia's rail network with those of the region's southern neighbors. Rail and road links planned with China through Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan also will expand Uzbekistan's reach and help to gradually reverse the influence of Soviet-era commercial patterns on the configuration of Uzbekistan's transportation network.

Data as of March 1996

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