Mongolia has a combined road network of 111,000 km, of which 12,000 km are paved roads. All provincial centers are connected via paved road with the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. Development of the country’s road infrastructure has intensified over the last few years, resulting in a doubling of the road network over the same period.
A vital backbone of Mongolia’s road network is the international highway that connects Mongolia with Russia and China. In 2016, pilot tests commenced to allow transit traffic between Russia and China, and transit freight via the country’s road infrastructure has been growing steadily ever since.
China’s Belt and Road initiative which aims to connect Asia and Europe by a global infrastructure development includes the establishment of a tripartite economic corridor connecting China, Mongolia, and Russia. This economic corridor involves a total of 32 projects, 13 of which are designated road infrastructure projects. Given this initiative, the Government of Mongolia has been paying close attention to improving the road infrastructure along the economic corridor between Russia and China.
The next priority for the Government of Mongolia is to increase the volume of transit freight, to develop high-quality roads between China and Russia that meet international standards, as well as improve the quality of the overall road networks.
In 2004, Mongolia joined the Asian Road Network – a United Nations initiative that aims to improve trade and enhance economic integration among the regional Asian economies. The network’s three main routes have a combined length of 4,286 km spanning the length and breadth of Mongolia and the country has demonstrated a commitment to expanding and improving the quality of the current network. The expansion of the AN-3 route of the Asian Road Network, a sections that supports maximum cargo loads, is currently underway and includes the development of a four-lane highway.
Furthermore, preparation has commenced for new road projects that will support commodity exports in the Umnugovi province where major deposits are located.
Under the Mongolian government’s New Recovery Policy, a mid-term policy, the construction of roads between border points is underway. The most important road project among these is the one between the Altanbulag and Zamiin-Uud border points, which spans approximately 987.5 km.
Mongolian road network
Mongolia has a combined railway network totalling a length of 1,949.4 km owned by operators, namely Ulaanbaatar Railway JV and other private companies, and runs through the provinces of Bulgan, Orkhon, Govisumber, Darkhan-Uul, Dornogovi, Umnugovi, Selenge, Tuv, and Dornod.
90% of the total railway network is owned by Ulaanbaatar Railway JV, the national railway operator which is a joint venture of the Mongolian and Russian government, with each country owning a 50% stake.
The infrastructure of the Ulaanbaatar Railway JV consists of 1,815 km of broad-gauge lines.
The Trans-Mongolian Railway is the main rail link between Mongolia and its neighbors. It begins as the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia in the town of Ulan Ude, crosses into Mongolia, and then runs through Ulaanbaatar before passing into China at Erenhot where it joins the Chinese railway network.
In the year 2022, 27.7 million tonnes of freight were transported through the Ulaanbaatar Railway network, while 3.2 million tonnes were transit freight. In 2020, the Ulaanbaatar Railway JV outperformed the high-capacity railway between Russia and Kazakhstan and transported 20% of the total transit freight between Russia and China.
Rail freight transport in Mongolia (m tonnes)
railway transit transport in Mongolia (number of freight trains)
New railroad project plans as of 2021
New railway projects
The Government of Mongolia has a plan to enhance the country’s railway system. Three major railway projects were completed in 2022, and more are in the pipeline.
The completed railway projects
The construction of the 416.1 km long railway along the Tavantoloi – Zuunbayan route finished and trial transportation began. It is expected to have annual capacity of 15 million tonnes of freight with the potential to double.
The construction of the 233.6 km Tavantolgoi – Gashuunsukhait railway has been completed and has an annual capacity of 30-50 million tonnes of freight transportation. It will reduce the current export cost from Tavantolgoi deposit by 3.8 times.
The 226.9 km long Zuunbayan – Khangi railway has been completed and has an annual capacity of 20 million tonnes of freight transportation. The railway project will also increase the export value of over 10 deposits in the Gobi region.
Upcoming railway projects
The 13 km long railway along the Shiveekhuren-Seqe route
The 10 km long railway along the Bichigt – Zuunkhatavch route
The 100 km long railway project along the Bichigt – Khuut route
The 300 km long railway project along the Shiveekhuren – Shinejinst route
Mongolia has the Air Transport Agreement with 39 countries and is available to have flight to those countries. As of 2022, Mongolia operates international scheduled flights in 22 different directions.
Regions of countries with which Mongolia has Air transport agreements as of 2022
The greatest advantage of Mongolia’s geographical location is the availability of direct, scheduled flights to major Asian financial and tourist hubs, such as Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Beijing, with flight times of 3-5 hours.
Mongolia has 5 national airlines that are authorized to operate flights to 42 cities in 19 countries. In 2022, there were 11 foreign airlines with permission to operate flights from Mongolia.
Airports in Mongolia in 2022
Mongolia has one international airport and 16 licensed airports, 10 of which are owned and operated by the Civil Aviation Authority of Mongolia. The Chinggis Khaan International Airport, located 50 km south of Ulaanbaatar, is the largest airport and became operational in 2021. It has the capacity to serve up to 3 million passengers annually and with additional infrastructure, it will be able to handle an estimated increase of 12 million passengers per year. The airport will also feature a 24-hour, all-weather air traffic control system.
Only the Chinggis Khaan International Airport handles international flights. Local airports of Murun, Khovd, Dalanzadgad, Choibalsan, and Ulaangom are authorized to receive international flights from 13 countries, including Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, and the Czech Republic, under the Air Transport Agreements. However, due to their limited capacity, these local airports have not yet received any international flights.
The Mongolian government has a short-term policy for the aviation sector, called “Flying Without Borders”, which will be in effect until 2025. The policy aims to:
As part of the Mongolian government’s long-term development policy, “Vision-2050”, local airports in eight provinces (Dornod, Uvs, Bayankhongor, Khovd, Umnugobi, Khuvsgul, Zavkhan, and Uvurkhangai) are planned to increase their capacity and achieve international status.
There is also a plan to upgrade air strips and facilities of some local airports and achieve 4C status by 2024. A “4C” runway is one that’s 1,800 meters or more in length and capable of handling an aircraft with a wingspan of up to 36 meters and landing gear that is less than 9 meters between the outside edges of the outermost wheels.
Passenger traffic in Mongolia, in thousands
Source: Based on data from the NSO, as surveyed by JICA
In 2019, Mongolia saw its highest number of international passengers with 1.2 million.
The number of international flights is expected to increase in 2023. This will be facilitated by:
Mongolia has a total of 46 border crossings, 14 of which are designated international entry points.
There are 11 permanent two-way crossings, 14 temporary or seasonal two-way checkpoints, and 7 transit checkpoints for a total of 39 international road points of entry/exit, 3 international railroads, and 1 international airports. However, 19 border checkpoints between Mongolia and Russia remain closed since 1994 due to lack of infrastructure.
Chinggis Khaan International Airport
The Chinggis Khaan International Airport, located 52 km from Ulaanbaatar, became operational in 2021, the midst of Covid-19 pandemic in 2021. The airport welcomed 934,000 passengers on 9,253 flights in 2022. It has a daily capacity to handle 139 flights or 12,000 passengers, with an annual capacity of 3 million passengers.
Mongolia - China border crossing
The Zamyn-Uud-Erlian Road and Railroad Crossing
The Zamyn-Uud-Erlian border checkpoint is a crucial entry point for both passengers and freight traveling between Mongolia and China. It is located 650 km from Ulaanbaatar and handles 40% of travelers, 76% of cargo vehicles, and 80% of transit entries. As the main trade crossing between the two countries, both Mongolia and China are prioritizing increasing its capacity to enhance bilateral trade.
The expansion project started in 2019, with funding of 233.5 million yuan from China and 30.35 billion tugrug from Mongolia. The newly upgraded Zamyn-Uud-Erlian Road Crossing facility opened in January 2023, and its capacity has been increased three-fold. The facility now has the capacity to handle up to 900 passengers and 100 vehicles per hour, allowing for more than 20,000 people to pass the crossing at its peak in a day.
The Zamyn-Uud-Erlian railway crossing operates in accordance with international railway schedules and is designated as a permanent international port through a bilateral border agreement with China. The Erdenet Mining Corporation and other mining firms export copper concentrate, iron ore, and coal to China via this railway crossing.
The Gashuunsukhait-Ganqimaodu border checkpoint is the main gateway for exporting copper concentrate of Oyu Tolgoi, one of the largest known copper and gold deposit, and coking coal from Tavantolgoi, the largest coal deposit. Therefore, this is crucial for minerals export.
Gashuunsukhait border checkpoint is located in the Khanbogd soum of Umnugovi province, which is 800 km away from Ulaanbaatar city. The checkpoint borders Bayannuur city of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China. This is a permanent border crossing for the citizens of both countries. Mining products are transported across the border between Monday and Saturday, 08.00 to 20.00 hours.
Over 50% of coal and over 55% of copper concentrate is exported through Gashuunsukhait.
Renovations are currently taking place at the border, and once complete, coal export capacity is forecasted to triple, and passengers and freight crossings are expected to double as a result. In addition, an internationally accredited customs laboratory will be established as the construction work is now underway.
The customs laboratory is designed to reduce entry delay and generate detailed exports data, such as determining pure weight, quantity, and quality of minerals.
The construction of the 233.6 km long railway along the Tavantolgoi-Gashuunsukhait route was completed in 2022, however, development of the bottleneck at the Mongolian-Chinese border has yet to commence. Upon becoming operational, the railway will have an annual freight capacity of 30 million tonnes and reduce current freight costs per tonne by 3.8 times.
This railway is particularly important for increasing Mongolia’s coal exports to China.
biggest route for coal export. Since the port is situated in the Umnugovi province, it is the primary port for the export of low-grade coal from Nariinsukhait deposits.
Shiveekhuren-Sekhe border crossing is located 955 km from Ulaanbaatar city and is a designated permanent two-way crossing. This is the same as the Gashuunsukhait crossing, allowing the transportation of coal between Monday to Saturday, from 08.00 to 20.00 hours, with a two-hour break between 12.00-14.00 hours.
The Shiveekhuren crossing accounts for over 40% of Mongolia’s coal exports. In 2021, MAK, one of the main exporters using this crossing, established four additional entry points to increase the overall export capacity of coal from 12m tonnes to over 22m tonnes.
The Government of Mongolia has also decided to construct a 13km long railroad to the Shiveekhuren-Sekhe crossing. The current capacity of heavy-duty vehicle transportation stands at 10-15m tonnes for coal exports, which can be doubled to a capacity of about 25m tonnes. In general, the Nariinsukhait-Shiveekhuren railroad will triple the entry capacity for coal exports and freight transportation, lowering transportation costs by 2-4 times as well as reducing the current ecological impact.
This is located 1,556 km away from Ulaanbaatar city in the Bulgan soum of Khovd province. About 60-200 travellers pass through the port on a daily basis. In 2017, an international public transport route was established between the Bulgan soum of Khovd province and the Chinese village of Takashiken. The Mongolia Energy Corporation, which currently operates in the Khushuut Coal Mine in Khovd province, primarily supplies coal to the Chinese market through this port.
Situated in the Erdenetsagaan soum of Sukhbaatar province, 850 km away from Ulaanbaatar city, the Bichigt crossing borders with the Zuunkhatavch crossing on the Chinese side. Under the government-level agreement between Mongolia and the People’s Republic of China, the Bichigt crossing was established as a permanently operational border crossing. A high volume of oil as well as a small amount of fluorspar, iron ore, and lignite are mainly exported through this crossing.
Petrochina Daqing Tamsag LLC, responsible for extracting approximately 95% of the country’s total oil production, utilizes the Bichigt crossing for oil exports. The border has undergone expansion and renovations with the aid of financing from the Asian Development Bank, which is expected to double the freight turnover to $400 million upon completion of the project.
The Mongolian government has plans to construct a 415 km railway project along the Choibalsan-Khuut-Bichigt route, with construction of the 10 km railway along Bichigt-Zuunkhatavch expected to start this year. The railway along the Bichigt-Khuut route is expected to become operational in 2023.
These railway projects will enable an increase in annual freight transport to 25 million tonnes via the Bichigt crossing.
The Bayankhoshuu crossing is under the administration of the Khalkhagol soum of Dornod province, bordering the Uvdug crossing of China.
The border checkpoint is located at a distance of 2.4 km from the actual border, 350 km from Choibalsan, and 1,018 km from Ulaanbaatar city, and is operational between January 1st to the 25th, and between April 1st and October 31st. This is the primary crossing for oil transportation, allowing entry from Monday to Sunday between 08.00 hours and 17.00 hours.
Petrochina Daqing Tamsag LLC exports oil extracted from Tamsag 21 oil field via the Bayankhoshuu crossing.
The crossing is located in the Khatanbulag soum of Dornogovi, 750 km from Ulaanbaatar city, set 0.6 km back from the actual border, and located 310 km from Sainshand. It is a permanently operational port. Coal and iron ore are currently transported through this checkpoint on its way to China.
The construction of the railway along the Zuunbayan-Khangi route was completed and trial transportation began in November 2022. This railway project will enhance the competitiveness of mineral exports from over 10 deposits in the Gobi region.
Economic benefits of the railroad project:
Mongolia - Russia border crossing
Altanbulag-Khyakhta road crossing
The road crossing in the Altanbulag-Khyakhta soum of Selenge province is permanently operational for international travel. Located 350 km from Ulaanbaatar city, 14.5% of all passengers and 16% of all vehicles use this crossing. Ever since the citizens of Russia and China were allowed 30-day visa-free travel, this crossing operational on a 24*7 basis, allowing a daily capacity of 2,000 travellers and 500 vehicles. With growing demand for passenger and freight access, work has begun to improve the crossing’s capacity, thereby tripling the daily number of passengers and quadrupling the number of trucks and cars.
Located in the Tsagaannuur soum of Bayan-Ulgii province in the far west of Mongolia, this road crossing is a permanently operational international crossing. It borders the Russian crossing of Tashanta and imports pertoleum production from Russia, meeting the needs for oil products in the western regions of Mongolia.
Borshoo-Khandgait road crossing
The crossing is located in Davst soum of Uvs province, 1,600 km from Ulaanbaatar, and set back 0.4 km from the border. It is a permanently operating international road crossing. Livestock products are primarily exported to the Russian market through this crossing, which is being expanded with the help of Asian Development Bank (ADB) funding. This is expected to triple the annual trade turnover through the crossing to $95m.
75% of the consumption of petroleum in the western regions is imported through the Borshoo and Tsagaannuur crossings.
Ereentsav-Solovyosk railway crossing
The Ereentsav railway border checkpoint of the Chuluunkhoroot soum, Dornod province borders the Russian Solovyosk crossing. It is set back a kilometer from the actual state border, 245 km from Choibalsan, and 943 km from Ulaanbaatar. The crossing is designated as a permanent international railway crossing and forms part of the petroleum import and mining export route. It is also one of the main transit crossings on the Russian border.
Sukhbaatar-Naushki railway crossing
This railway crossing is located in the Sukhbaatar soum of Selenge province and borders with Naushki crossing of Russia. This permanent crossing for international travel is one of the largest crossings on the Trans-Siberian Railway connecting Asia and Europe.
The Ulan-Ude-Naushki-Sukhbaatar-Ulaanbaatar- Zamyn-Uud-Erlian-Jining railway is considered as the main railway corridor along the Mongolia-Russia-China Economic Corridor. For this reason, the Government of Mongolia is establishing a One Stop Customs Center with the help of a MNT4.5bn ($1.7bn) soft loan to increase entry capacity at the border crossing. This is expected to reduce customs clearance delays by some 30%.
Customs Modernization Projects
The Government of Mongolia has initiated the “Customs Modernization Program” in order to bring its border checkpoints up to international standards. Accordingly, renovation projects have started at the Zamyn-Uud, Gashuunsukhait, Tsagaandel Uul, and Altanbulag crossings.
The following central and subsidiary customs laboratories are also being renovated: