EghtesadOnline: A total of 4.95 million passengers travelled via railroad during the first seven months of the current Iranian year (March 20-Sept. 21), which shows a 67.5% decline compared with the similar period of last year, according to data released by Rail Transportation Companies’ Guild Union.
During the similar period of last year, more than 15.91 million passengers were transported by railroads. The declinse is due to the coronavirus pandemic that has reduced travels.
As of May 21, rail travel agencies are only allowed to sell tickets to fill up 50% of train seats in compliance with health protocols set by the National Coronavirus Headquarters.
Presently, all coronavirus-related protocols as well as social distancing are being followed and trains are running as per the timetables.
According to Saeed Rasouli, the head of Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, many passengers cancelled their tickets for the Iranian New Year holidays (started March 20), which is the peak season for tourism in Iran, due to the pandemic.
“Passenger rail companies gave full refunds for 1.2 million pre-purchased tickets worth 1.07 trillion rials [$4 million]. However, rail passenger transport continued to decline after March causing a drastic decline in rail passenger companies’ revenues, which were also financially burdened with the task of disinfecting wagons and facilities, and abiding by health protocols.”
Rasouli noted that the government promised to grant financial aid worth 9.4 trillion rials ($37 million) to rail cargo and transportation companies.
According to Mehrdad Taqizadeh, secretary of Iran’s Guild of Rail Transport Companies, the number of rail passengers fell by 94% during the Iranian New Year holidays compared with last year’s similar period.
During the first seven months of the fiscal 2019-20, a total of 16.98 million passengers were carried by railroads across the country.
According to Mohsen Sadeqi, an official with the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, out of 60 loan applications worth 8,750 billion rials ($35 million), which have been submitted in Kara.mcls.gov.ir for government-backed coronavirus support package, a total of 1,580 billion rials ($6.32 million) have been paid to 15 rail companies by Nov. 28, IRIB News reported.
Rise in Ticket Prices
The Supreme Council of Transport, affiliated to the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, approved a 20% rise in rail fares as of June 21, according to Taqizadeh.
“The decision was taken in line with the Health Ministry’s social distancing guidelines due to the coronavirus pandemic and rise in inflation rate. Passenger trains are now operating at half their capacity, such that only two passengers are allowed in a four-seater booth,” he added.
Noting that as per the directive of the council, supply and demand will determine the fares of five-star trains, he said rail companies had called for a 60% rise in ticket prices, in view of the social distancing rules and the inflation rate, but the council only approved a 20% increase.
In separate remarks, the deputy head of IRIR for passenger transportation, Mir Hassan Mousavi, said 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 the rising costs borne by rail companies.
The average annual inflation rate in Iran currently stands at around 29%.