EghtesadOnline: Lines 6 and 7 of Tehran subway network need a further 38 trillion rials ($904 million) for completion, the deputy mayor for transportation affairs Mohsen Pourseyed Aghaei was quoted as saying.
He said Line 7 is being reconditioned to meet safety rules and will become operational by April and Line 6 will open in August, the municipality’s website reported.
Subway commute has increased significantly in recent years and currently, about four million people use the system every day. Tehran Municipality expects the number to climb by another 25% after the launch of lines 6 and 7 and reach over five million commuters per day.
In addition to the two lines, the city’s subway system comprises five other main lines (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 – line 3 has yet to be completed) with nearly 100 stations, Financial Tribune reported.
Under Construction Line 6
Aghaei said “The first phase of Line 6 will become operational by August with an initial 3.5 trillion rials ($83.4 million) investment. By the time, at least 10 kilometers of the line will be in use.”
For making the line fully operational (scheduled for March 2019), another 18 trillion rials ($428 million) should be spent, he added. The amount includes the aforementioned $83 million.
As per an agreement with TM, Shahr Bank (City Bank) will provide the funds.
The deputy mayor says 90% of Line 6 tunnel construction is complete but only 6% of the required equipment has been purchased.
Line 6 starts from Sulqan in the northwest. The 31-kilometer line has 29 stations and ends in Dolat-Abad district in the southeast.
Before starting the project, TM estimated that the total construction cost of the line would reach 65 trillion rials ($1.6 billion) or $51 million per kilometer.
Subway construction costs vary in different countries depending on land value, raw material prices and construction costs. For instance, Madrid’s Metrosur line is 41 km long, with 28 stations, and was completed in four years at around $58m per km. Singapore’s Circle Line runs 35 kilometers with 28 stations cost $4.8 billion, or $130 million per kilometer.
Dispute Over Line 7
Line 7 of the Tehran Metro has been an unending saga since its partial opening on June 10. The municipality, under former mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, is accused by public transport experts and independent urban planners of rushing to open the line with little regard to safety protocols and acceptable international standards. Political analysts and informed minds believe that Qalibaf and his minions rushed to launch the long-delayed line before the presidential elections in spring to muster votes for the beleaguered mayor who eventually dropped out of the race less than a week before the May polls.
Qalibaf’s successor Mohammad Ali Najafi ordered the line closed in November due to rising concerns over the safety of passengers. “The subway’s Line 7 was launched in haste and safety rules were flaunted,” the mayor was quoted as saying. “It will take at least six months of hard work to make the line operational and safe.”
Echoing Najafi’s comments, Aghaei says, “If there was an accident on the line it would have been disastrous. The line was not secure and did not have enough ventilators.”
The line did not have proper ventilation systems and in the event of a mishap there were no escape routes and considering the long distance between the stations, commuters would have to walk along the unventilated tunnel for at least two kilometers to reach the nearest exit.
According to Aghaei, “Line 7 is currently being remade and will become operational with eight functioning stations by April. Initially, 3.7 trillion rials ($88 million) will be invested in the project by Shahr Bank.”
As per the municipality’s five-year plan (March 2013-18), the line was scheduled for completion by 2015, but after two years and billions in costs and overheads due largely to gross mismanagement and poor oversight, only seven stations were constructed.
With an air of optimism, Aghaei says, “The line will be fully operational by the end of the next fiscal (March 2019). Completing the project will cost 20 trillion rials ($476 million)” including the earlier-mentioned $88 million.
The 27km Line 7, which connects the capital’s northwest to the southeastern regions will have 25 stations. Initially, TM estimated that the total cost of constructing the line would be 60 trillion rials ($1.4 billion), about 2.2 trillion rials ($53 million) per kilometer.
Earlier in October TM released its balance sheet for the first six months of the current Iranian year that ends in March, unraveling the state of its almost empty coffers.
According to the report 79% of TM revenues have unsustainable sources compared to 21% that are sustainable, thanks to the performance of the former mayor who ruled the overcrowded city for 12 years and spent money the TM did not have.
Out of the municipality’s annual budget of $4.5 billion, revenues realized in the first six months of this Iranian year are estimated at $1.7 billion or 72% of the H1 projected budget.
Furthermore, in September Najafi said the municipality owes 300 trillion rials ($7.69 billion), mostly to banks and the army of contractors working for it.
“The outstanding debt is 1.7 times more than the municipality’s total budget for the current fiscal year (March 2017-18).”
Iranians have resorted to social media networks to demand officials cut the cost of using the subway to motivate people to use the services instead of personal cars. However, Aghaei is of the opinion that underdeveloped services and overcrowded trains and stations discourage people from using Tehran metro, not the costs.
Ticket prices are relatively lower than almost all developed countries. A subway single ride costs 8,000 rials (19 cents) in Tehran, however many areas still suffer from lack of sufficient and decent services.
A single ride ticket costs $3 in New York but services are significantly cheaper in developing countries — Cairo 6 cents and Delhi 12.
The trains and stations are almost always overcrowded during the rush hours and commuters can hardly get on and off the trains with ease.
According to Aghaei, the essential need is more capacity: trains that run more frequently and new lines to meet growing demand. However, improving the conditions will take time, maybe years, and in the meantime commuters have to make do with what they have and hope things will improve with responsible management and strict oversight of spending policies.