The Anzob Tunnel
The Anzob tunnel is located on the M34 highway.
This, more importantly, is the capital of Sughd province the wealthiest area of this mountainous country.
The Anzob tunnel cost 4 billion dollars to construct.
The job was undertaken by the Iranian company Sabir Co. The tunnel is just a small part of a bigger plan a road to link Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and China touted as many road links in this area are as the new Silk Road.
The smaller aim of the project much more importantly for Tajikistan was to have a more reliable road network to its valuable northern district. One that could be used all year round.
Tajikistan's Sughd province is logistically separated from the rest of the country by the Zarafshan mountain range. Before the tunnel was constructed, there were two options when travelling to this region (three if you include flying).
The first meant driving over the Anzob pass located around 90 kilometres north of Dushanbe at an altitude of 3,400 m. It was considered one of the most treacherous mountain passes in central Asia.
This was evident on October 23, 1997, when an avalanche killed 46 people, burying 15 vehicles.
The avalanche was so large that it took two weeks for emergency services to reach the victims. When the road was impassable, the second option was to drive into Uzbekistan and make a roundabout route back into Tajikistan to the north.
This had problems as pre-2018 both countries had diplomatic issues with each other. When the Uzbeks wished to they would regularly hold up crossing causing traffic issues famously lasting days on occasions.
The Anzob Tunnel would see an end to this, bypass the Anzob pass, and keep the road open year-round.
Construction for the Anzob Tunnel began in 2002/ 2003. Work was hard, since at a height of 2,720 m, this region sees snow starting as early as September until the start of May.
The construction crew would need to cut through 5,040 meters of rock.
Much of the crew complained about the treacherous working conditions, extreme cold, water pouring from the tunnel walls and the altitude.
For whatever reason, whether the crew was eager to leave or the Tajiks just wanted their tunnel operating quickly, in 2006 it was prematurely opened.
This is when the tunnel quickly picked up a serious of unfortunate names and headlines.
“The most dangerous tunnel in the world!”
“The Tunnel of Death.”
“The Tunnel of Fear.”
And the best headline:
"The purpose of a tunnel is to get you from one place to another, preferably alive. The Anzob Tunnel is making no promises in that regard!”
At the time, there was no lighting in the tunnel. This would normally be an inconvenience, although this one had no proper ventilation or drainage.
Also, the surface of the road had already started to crumble causing large potholes to form.
The complex was originally designed to have two tunnels each carrying traffic in alternate directions. This would have been much safer. However, this was never to be and even today only one operates with no traffic lights. It has a constant two-way flow of traffic.
In 2006, along with all of the other issues, it would truly have not been a tunnel you'd want to break down in. If you had managed to survive the oncoming traffic then you would have to either hope for a pick-up or survive a walk of at most 1.5 miles.
On top of this, you would have had to have braved the buildup of toxic exhaust fumes.
Eventually, in 2014, the Iranians signed a deal and they returned to finish the job.
Work ]again started and by 2018, the tunnel was vastly improved. It’s not perfect being quite a bumpy drive, poor or no road markings and still relatively dodgy ventilation but it now does the job.
One thing to bear in mind is that the drive up to the tunnel from both sides is truly amazing and one of those journeys one truly will never forget as the scenery is truly stunning.