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EghtesadOnline: Public transportation expansion projects have become a challenging task for managers in Iranian metropolises because of rising demand on the government’s budget.

However, officials are making efforts in Tehran and Isfahan to overcome the funding shortcomings.

According to the Persian newspaper Hamshahri, the government intends to use the National Development Fund to help Tehran Municipality buy 630 subway cars and 3,000 new buses.

The arrangement was announced on Wednesday when Es’haq Jahangiri, first vice president, and Mohsen Hashemi, chairman of Tehran City Council, discussed ways of expanding the capital’s public transportation network, according to Financial Tribune.

Mohammad Alikhani, the head of TCC's Transportation Commission, told the media that the government will transfer the budget as soon as experts estimate the price and select the supplier companies.

Tehran Mayor Pirouz Hanachi told the media that since Nov. 15—when the government rationed and tripled fuel prices—authorities have stressed that the revenue saved will be spent on people's welfare in different areas, one of which is public transportation.

He called on government bodies to fulfill their promise and support Tehran Municipality in upgrading the dilapidated bus fleet and equipping the urban subway system.



Current Status

According to TM, 1,000 subway cars are currently operating in the capital's urban subway system, 30% of which need to be upgraded. 

The capital's subway stretches over 220 kilometers and comprises seven lines (1 to 7) with nearly 120 stations. Lines 6 and 7 are yet to become fully operational.

After the fuel price hike, subway commute has increased significantly in Tehran and currently four million people are using the subway daily. TM expects the number to surge by 25% after subway lines 6 and 7 are up and running.

But this is definitely not enough for Tehran where, according to statistics, over 15 million people commute daily, many from the surrounding cities and towns.

The number of buses operating in Tehran hardly reaches 6,000 which, according to experts, are half the number required for offering acceptable transportation services.

Experts say the average age of the fleet is over 11 years, such that 50% of the buses plying the streets of Tehran are dilapidated and fit for the scrap-yard.

These old buses have numerous technical flaws and cause inconvenience to passengers, apart from worsening the air pollution suffocating Tehran’s residents.

Speaking of inefficient transport, Tehran is not the only city facing challenges. Reports say Isfahan, the other metropolis in central Iran, is also grappling with the same problems.



Inefficient System in Isfahan

Of the total 900 buses operating in Isfahan’s public transport fleet, 10% are highly dilapidated.

Isfahan Mayor Qodratollah Norouzi believes public transportation is neither sufficient nor efficient for 2.2 million citizens of the city.

Norouzi said the government has agreed to the sale of participatory bonds worth 2 trillion rials ($15 million) to the municipality. 

"We are planning to add 35 new buses for bus rapid transit lines and 20 buses for urban lines. In addition, 30 CNG buses, which are currently out of service due to technical flaws, will be repaired and rejoin the fleet,” he said.

However, he noted that the main challenge is that sanctions have limited Iran's international relations, making it difficult to import the required vehicles. 

Following the reimposition of US sanctions against Tehran last summer, Iran's rial lost almost 70% of its value against the greenback and ties between Iranian automotive companies and international auto parts suppliers were disrupted.

Almost all partners of local auto manufacturers have suspended their Iran operations, which has led to a sharp fall in domestic output.

"Notwithstanding all the hardships, we are doing our best to manage the situation," Norouzi said.

Shifting focus on the urban subway system, Norouzi said work is underway to develop clean modes of transportation. 

The construction of tunnels for Line 2 of Isfahan’s subway network has progressed by 22% and will be completed within a year.

Alireza Salavati, the managing director of Transportation and Traffic Organization of Isfahan Municipality, told reporters, “The construction of Isfahan Metro’s Line 1 took 15 years. However, the expansion project has been streamlined and will be completed by 2021.”

Isfahan’s Line 2 consists of 22 stations and stretches 24.4 kilometers from Khomeini-Shahr in the west to Zeinabiyeh Street in the northeast.

Isfahan's subway map includes a total of three lines (1, 2 and 3), of which only one is operational. 

The 20-kilometer Line 1 links the north to the south of the city with 20 stations. With a multi-phase construction process, the line became fully operational in 2017. 

Two stations of Line 1 intersect with lines 2 and 3, which are still under construction. 

Line 3, which is the shortest, covers the southwestern part of the city, with seven stations along an 8.8-kilometer tunnel.

According to Isfahan Metro Company, the operating line transports 70,000 passengers daily and the figure is expected to reach 100,000 by the beginning of the school year in September. 


Budget Projects Iran Challenges Public Transport Expansion Funding metropolises