Tajikistan’s troubled Istiqlol tunnel is to be repaired at last, now that funding has been secured for the work. The Iranian contractor Farob is to handle the extensive improvement works required.
The tunnel desperately needs to be uprated and has been ranked as one of the most dangerous underground road links anywhere in the world. Although the tunnel opened to traffic in 2007, the 5km link had not been fully completed. Some repairs were supposed to be carried out in following years but a shortage of funds meant that all work was halted in 2010.
The tunnel has minimal ventilation and the roadway is unsurfaced, so is now in an extremely poor condition. Potholes proliferate through the link and combined with the lack of proper ventilation and heavy flooding due to water seeping into tunnel, drivers are at high risk when using the route. Crashes are not uncommon while many vehicles are damaged due to the poor surface or stall in the flooded areas while trying to pass through the tunnel.
The link is also known as the Anzob Tunnel and the Ushtur Tunnel and is located 80km to the North West of Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe. The tunnel forms part of the M34 highway and is of key importance for Tajikistan as it remains open in winter, providing a link that connects Dushanbe with the country's second city, Khujand. At an altitude of 2,750m, the tunnel reduces journey times between the two cities and provides a key international route for Tajikistan as it also cuts journey times between Dushanbe and Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent.
Meanwhile, there are also plans to improve many of the country’s main road connections. The Tajikistan Government has set a budget of $708 million for improving and repairing roads, as well as building new links.