EghtesadOnline: The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the Iranian rail sector.
A total of 1.1 million passengers were transported by the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways in the first quarter of the current Iranian year (March 20-June 20), 84% lower than those in the corresponding period of last year (6.82 million).
The number of passengers transported by rail in Iran stood at 102,000 in the month ending April 19, 254,000 in the month ending May 20 and 750,000 in the month ending June 20, registering a 95%, 88% and 69% year-on-year declines respectively, the Persian-language daily Etemad reported.
"Following the outbreak of coronavirus and in compliance with the guidelines of the National Coronavirus Headquarters, tourist trains have suspended operations. Intercity trains also run occasionally due to low demand; even operating trains run at their minimum capacity. It’s still not evident when the tourist trains will resume their work. They won’t run unless the disease is completely controlled," Saeed Rasouli, the managing director of IRIR, was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
The government is offering a total of 9.4 trillion rials ($40 million) worth of low interest loans (12%) to rail passenger transportation companies to help them back on their feet due to the losses inflicted by the coronavirus outbreak, he added last month, IRNA reported.
Rasouli noted that the loans have been made available from June 8 and 63 companies have been found eligible to receive them.
Presently, all coronavirus-related protocols as well as social distancing rules are being followed and trains are running according to the timetables.
Noting that the number of rail passengers fell by 94% in the new Iranian year holidays (March 20-April 1) compared with last year’s similar period, Mehrdad Taqizadeh, the secretary of Iran’s Guild of Rail Transport Companies, said a total of 300,000 tickets were cancelled and 910 billion rials [$3.84 million] were paid back to people following the disease outbreak.
The Supreme Council of Transport, affiliated to the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, has approved a 20% rise in rail fares as of June 21, according to the Secretary of Iran’s Guild of Rail Transport Companies Mehrdad Taqizadeh.
“The decision was made in view of social distancing guidelines of the Health Ministry and the inflation rate. Passenger trains are now operating at half their capacity; only two passengers are allowed in a four seater booth,” he added.
Stressing that as per the council’s directive, supply and demand will determine the fares of five-star trains, he said rail companies had asked for a 60% rise in ticket prices given the social distancing rules and the inflation rate, but the council only approved a 20% increase and also agreed to a 50% rise in the fares of suburban trains,” Fars News Agency reported.
In separate remarks, though, Mir Hassan Mousavi, the deputy head of IRIR in passenger transportation, says the 20% rise in ticket prices has nothing to do with social distancing and restrictions imposed on the number of passengers per train cars, explaining that the increase is in line with the inflation rate and higher costs borne by rail companies.
According to the Statistical Center of Iran's latest report, the average annual inflation in Iran currently hovers around 26%.
The average Consumer Price Index of the transportation sector in the 12-month period ending July 21, which marks the end of the fourth Iranian month, increased by 45.4% compared with the similar period of the year before–the highest growth among 12 groups of the basket of consumer goods and services purchased by households.
With a coefficient of 9.41%, CPI stood at 283.5 for the month under review, indicating a 7% increase compared with the month before, which is the highest growth among the basket of consumer goods and services, the Statistical Center of Iran reported.
The transportation index registered a year-on-year increase of 55.9%.