Representatives of the Ministry of Transport (MoT) of Tajikistan and representatives of an official delegation of Iran, which arrived in Dushanbe for participation in the 14th session of the Tajikistan-Iran Joint Intergovernmental Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation, have discussed the possibility of speeding up the completion of the construction of the Istiqlol Tunnel.

A source at a MoT says this issue was discussed on June 8.  “The parties discussed the possibility of acceleration of the completion of the construction of the tunnel and agreed to efficiently implement the second phase of this project,” the source added. 

The parties reportedly also discussed issues related to further expansion of cooperation between Tajikistan and Iran in the field of transportation and increase in the volume of freight traffic between the two countries.  

Meanwhile, traffic via the Istiqlol Tunnel has been restricted in connection with renovation work that started on June 2. 

Currently, from 6:00 to 12:20, the traffic via the tunnel is open only for vehicles moving from Dushanbe to Khujand, and from 12:30 to 19:00, the traffic via the tunnel is open only for vehicles moving from Khujand to Dushanbe.  From 19:00 to 6:00, the tunnel is open for traffic in both directions.

The renovation work, which reportedly includes installation of ventilation and lighting systems as well as security surveillance and fire extinguishing systems, is expected to be completed in three months.

Recall, Tajikistan and Iran signed an agreement on completion of the second phase of construction of the Istiqlol Tunnel on January 20, 2021.  The document was inked in Dushanbe by Azim Ibrohim, Minister of Transport, and Ali Vakili, CEO at Farab Group of Companies.

Iranian and Tajik energy ministers reached an agreement in Tehran in early December 2019 that Iran will take the necessary steps for the completion of the lighting of the tunnel.

The Istiqlol Tunnel, better known among the population as the Anzob Tunnel, was built with assistance of Iranian specialists.  Iran’s Saber International constructed the Istiqlol Tunnel.

The Istiqlol Tunnel is a five kilometer long tunnel located 80 kilometers northwest of Dushanbe.  It connects the Tajik capital to Tajikistan’s second largest city, Khujand.

It is also a transit route between Dushanbe and Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent.  Previously, especially during the cold seasons, a lack of a direct link between northern and southern Tajikistan led to disruptions of commerce.  The tunnel makes the highway from Dushanbe to Khujand open for traffic the whole year round and drops the transit time by four to five hours.

An official opening ceremony of the Istiqlol Tunnel was held in July 2007; however, some parts of the construction have been left half-finished.

According to Iranian media reports, the tunnel was constructed in three years, “costing US$60 million.”