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Transport in Turkmenistan

In the early 2000s, substantial work was done to restore infrastructure, which was in general disrepair, and to extend travel routes. Major new road and railroad projects were in progress in 2006.

The Government continues to be dominant owner and operator of transport assets and services, with some private involvement in inter-city and intra-city transport operations. No real progress has been made in the direction of decentralizing to municipal governments the power to set service standards and fares, and responsibility to pay subsidies in the public transport sector. Cost recovery remains low in most areas (direct cost recovery for publicly owned urban passenger services is at about 20%) and the accounting information available does not allow an assessment of the financial status of various state owned companies.  There is a shortage of operable public transport vehicles and a corresponding decline in transport services affecting the mobility of urban residents.

Turkmenbashi Port Improvement Project (PDF)


In 2005 Turkmenistan had 2,440 km of railroad line, most of which runs close to the northern and southern borders. The Tejen–Serakhs–Mashhad railroad, built in 1996 by Turkmenistan and Iran, has become a vital link of Central Asian, Russian, and European railroad systems with South Asia and the Persian Gulf. In February 2006, the final construction phase began on the Trans-Garagum Railway, a direct link between Ashgabat and Dashhowuz that will halve travel time between the southern and northern borders.

Urban transportation systems are being upgraded in Ashgabat, Dashhowuz, and Mary.

Railway links with adjacent countries are:

  • Iran: cargo only, 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 5⁄6 in)/1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) break-of-gauge
  • Afghanistan: very short to Towraghondi, no passenger service
  • Kazakhstan: via Uzbekistan, service halted indefinitely
  • Uzbekistan: service halted indefinitely
  • Caspian Sea: irregular ferry, passenger only


In 2001 Turkmenistan had an estimated 22,000 km of roads, about 18,000 km of which were paved. One major highway runs westward from Mary (ancient Marv), along the Iranian border through Ashgabat and then to Turkmenbashi on the Caspian Sea; a second runs northwestward from the Afghanistan border through Turkmenabat, along the Uzbekistan border to Dashhowuz.

In the early 2000s, major road-building projects improved sections of the highway connecting Ashgabat with Turkmenbashi and Mary.

Ports and harbours

The main port at Turkmenbashi on the Caspian Sea is being renovated. Main shipping lines cross the Caspian to Astrakhan in Russia and Baku in Azerbaijan. Smaller Caspian ports are Alaja, Chekelen, and Ekarem. Plans call for expansion of Ekarem into a second major Caspian port. In 2006 Turkmenistan had eight merchant marine vessels of more than 1,000 tons displacement, of which four were cargo ships, two were oil tankers, one was for refrigerated cargo, and one was a combination ore and oil ship.


The main inland waterways are the Amu Darya River, which runs along the northern border, and the Garagum Canal, which runs from east to west from the Amu Darya near the Afghanistan border through Mary and Ashgabat to Turkmenbashi on the Caspian coast. The 1,400-km canal, designed mainly for irrigation, is navigable for 450 km from its Caspian terminus. Because water is withdrawn for irrigation, the Amu Darya is navigable only about 250 km downstream from the Afghanistan border to Turkmenabat.


In 2006 Turkmenistan had an estimated 29 airports, of which 22 had paved runways and one (at Ashgabat) had a runway longer than 3,000 m. One heliport was in operation. In the mid-1990s, the Ashgabat airport was enlarged and modernized. Smaller international airports are located at Dashhowuz and Turkmenabat.

  • Airports with paved runways:
    • total: 22
    • 2,438 to 3,047 m: 13
    • 1,524 to 2,437 m: 8
    • 914 to 1,523 m: 1 (1994 est.)
  • Airports with unpaved runways:
    • total: 42
    • 914 to 1,523 m: 7
    • under 914 m: 35 (1994 est.)

Air travel within Turkmenistan on the national carrier, Turkmenistan Airlines, is often claimed to be unreliable, but there have been no reported accidents. Flights are available from Ashgabat to China, Germany, India, Kazakhistan, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan.


  • Crude oil: 250 km
  • Natural gas: 4,400 km