Improving Road Safety in Mongolia

Traveling into opposing traffic lanes often leads to head-on crashes on highways. Photo credit: ADB.

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Installing wire-rope barriers to separate opposing lanes of traffic can reduce fatal road accidents by 95%.


Mongolia is implementing a new road safety management strategy for its regional road corridors. Measures include installing wire-rope median barriers to prevent head-on collisions in the busiest national highway section of Ulaanbaatar-Darkhan.

This is part of the  Regional Road Development Management Project supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which aims to preserve and improve important regional road sections linking Mongolia's capital with the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation. ADB’s High-Level Technology Fund is financing the wire-rope median barriers.

The need for road safety features

Rapid motorization usually correlates to an increase in road deaths and injuries if serious action is not taken to improve road safety. In some countries in the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) subregion, the growth rate of vehicle ownership is high, particularly in the case of passenger cars in Azerbaijan, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Kazakhstan, and Mongolia.

Mongolia has a road network of about 100,323 kilometers. More road accidents have been recorded in the country in the last few years. In 2013, traffic crashes caused 597 deaths, which is above the world average.  Speeding and low seat belt usage particularly by passengers contribute significantly to the relatively high number of crash-related fatalities and serious injuries.  

Major improvements have been implemented in Mongolia through new road construction and rehabilitation projects. However, if road accidents are to be held in check, essential road safety engineering features must be integrated in road expansion or improvement efforts.

For the black spots or the concentration of road traffic accidents in the most heavily used national highway section of Ulaanbaatar-Darkhan, a road safety feature, such as median barriers, can prevent violent head-on collision on a high-speed two-lane highway.

What is a wire-rope median barrier?

A test conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism in June 2018 showed that a median barrier with cables is the most effective method for preventing head-on collisions on highways.

Wire-rope median barriers separate opposing traffic lanes. This solution is made of three or four tensioned wire ropes, held in place by anchorages at each end, and supported at the ideal height by steel posts at spacings of between 2 and 3.5 meters.

The wire ropes deflect when struck by an errant vehicle and absorb the energy of the vehicle, causing it to slow down. The wire ropes guide the vehicle along the barrier while the posts progressively collapse when struck. The errant vehicle is redirected back in the direction of travel or slowed to a stop as it travels along the cables preventing a cross-median crash.

Considered as the most forgiving barrier system, this safety feature can reduce fatal crashes by 95%. They provide a lower risk of injury to vehicle occupants because the deceleration of the vehicle is relatively low compared with rigid and semirigid barriers.  Wire ropes also cause the least damage to vehicles.

It’s a cost-effective solution as its installation, replacement, and operations and maintenance costs are cheaper than the other barriers.

Moreover, wire-rope median barriers can also be installed within a narrow width and can be detached in case the median needs to be opened. The open design also prevents the accumulation of drifting sand or snow, both of which can be issues not just in Mongolia but also in other CAREC countries.

Scaling up socioeconomic benefits

Improvements in road safety can dramatically reduce deaths and injuries and also deliver significant social and economic benefits.

Using wire-rope median barriers is expected to increase the efficiency and safety of domestic and international transit traffic between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation through Mongolia’s north–south road transport corridor. This will promote inclusive economic growth through increased trade, as well as boost agriculture, agribusiness, and tourism. Mongolia has already initiated the National Program on Tourism Development, which will help establish the country as a global destination for nomadic culture.

What is the High-Level Technology Fund?

Under its Strategy 2030, ADB is mainstreaming the use of advanced technologies by carrying out pilot testing, strengthening project design, emphasizing quality in procurement, and mobilizing subject experts.

The High-Level Technology Fund was established in May 2017 as a multi-donor trust fund in ADB that provides grant financing to encourage more widespread adoption of high-level technologies to address development challenges in member countries. It is currently funded by the Government of Japan.

Following the premise that development impact can be profoundly improved with the right advanced solutions, the fund seeks to promote the integration of high-level technologies and innovative solutions into ADB-financed and administered projects. It also aims to connect technology providers with ADB’s project officers and member countries to explore business opportunities for high-level technology integration.

Anand Ganbaatar
Former Transport Officer, Mongolia Resident Mission, East Asia Department, Asian Development Bank

Anand Ganbaatar is a former member of ADB Transport Sector Group. Prior to ADB, he worked for Ministry of Road and Transport Development of Mongolia and was responsible for major road sector projects financed by state budget, Development Bank of Mongolia, and multilateral development banks. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil and Structural Engineering from the University of Bradford, UK.

Mookiah Thiruchelvam
Former Senior Portfolio Management Specialist, Mongolia Resident Mission, Asian Development Bank

Mookiah Thiruchelvam was the project officer of the Regional Road Development and Maintenance Project and the head of portfolio management unit in ADB’s Mongolia Resident Mission. Prior to that role, he led many transport initiatives in Afghanistan, Georgia, and Sri Lanka. He holds a master’s degree in Engineering from University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka and a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment from University of Cambridge, UK.

Lin Lu
Advisor and Head of Information Access Unit, Office of the Secretary, Asian Development Bank

Lin Lu has multi-dimensional experience spanning ADB operations, supporting policy and strategy development, and a deep understanding of corporate initiatives. Prior to her current role, she was principal operations coordination specialist of the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department and managed the High-Level Technology Fund. Lin has led energy projects and technical assistance in Central, West and East Asia. Before ADB, she was business development manager at Hollysys Asia Pacific Ltd. She holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University.

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