The challenging task of developing the subway system in Iranian metropolises has raised concerns among urbanists who censure mismanagement and lack of budget for the lagging progress.
Officials in Tehran, Isfahan and Qom are on work to diagnose and address the prevailing issues in metro expansion, which seem to become chronic pains.
On the occasion of the National Transportation Safety Day (April 26), Mohammad Alikhani, the head of Transportation Commission of Tehran City Council, said the capital city’s subway system faces serious shortcomings that will not be obviated even in two decades, if policymaking processes and budget management are not overhauled, Borna News reported.
“The subway network still lacks 3,000 train cars to facilitate 10 million daily travels … There are around 1,300 train wagons currently operating in Tehran’s subway, 30% of which need to be upgraded,” he said,
Censuring tactless budget expenditure in urban management, Alikhani blamed the frustrating situation on US sanctions and said before economic limitations enveloped the country, each train car cost 50 billion rials ($308,000).
After the Iranian rial considerably lost its value against the greenback after sanctions were renewed in the summer of 2018, each wagon now costs 170 billion rials ($1 million), which is too expensive.
The US dollar was sold at 162,000 rials on Monday while it fetched 42,000 rials in March 2018.
Alikhani also called on state authorities to fulfill their promises of allocating funds for streamlining public transportation.
“After the government rationed and tripled fuel prices in November 2019, authorities stressed that the revenue saved would be spent on people's welfare in different areas, one of which was public transportation,” he added.
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.
TM expects the number of commuters to surge by 25% after subway lines 6 and 7 are up and running.
But this is definitely not sufficient for Tehran where, according to statistics, over 10 million people commute daily, many from the surrounding cities and towns.
Speaking of public transportation deficiencies, Tehran is not the only city facing challenges. Reports say Isfahan, the other metropolis in central Iran, is also grappling with the same problems.
Concerns over inadequate public transportation have also compelled urban managers in Isfahan to ask the government for financial help to upgrade the city’s subway network.
Amir Ahmad Zandavar, the head of Transportation, Environment and Information Commission at Isfahan City Council, told reporters that Isfahan Metro’s Line 1 still lacks basic equipment while it has been operating for years.
“The highest priority should be placed on completing Line 1,” he said, warning that if the necessary equipment are not supplied for an operating metro line, it can jeopardize the lives of passengers.
The line requires 7 trillion rials [$43.7 million] to complete and equip the subway line, Zandavar emphasized.
The repair and addition of escalators, elevators and proper ventilation system, as well as some restorations, are required in several stations, he added.
The multiphase construction process of Isfahan Metro’s Line 1 took 15 years and became operational in 2017. The 20-kilometer Line 1 links the north to the south of the city with 20 stations.
Isfahan's subway map includes a total of three lines (1, 2 and 3), of which only one is currently operational.
Two stations of Line 1 intersect with lines 2 and 3, which are still under construction.
The construction of tunnels for Line 2 of Isfahan’s subway network has progressed by 22% and is expected to be completed in less than a year.
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.
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 per day and the figure is expected to increase with the launch of the other two lines.
Municipal officials of Qom, the shrine city bordering Tehran, say the completion of the first phase of subway network requires 11 trillion rials ($67.9 million).
Seyyed Morteza Hesam-Nejad, deputy for financial and economic affairs at Qom Municipality, said a portion of the plan’s budget will be met by selling participatory bonds.
However, he added, the government’s help plays a big role in pushing the project forward.
Officials say if funds are injected into the project, in the next Iranian year (starting March 2020), the holy city’s subway network will partially become operational.
"Over 5 kilometers of the mapped subway network will be launched and people in the holy city will be able to commute through the subway, which is the zero-emission means of transportation," Hesam-Nejad added.
Qom Mayor Morteza Saqqaian-Nejad had earlier said the government has agreed to allocate 12 trillion rials ($74 million) for purchasing 80 subway cars, which would make 10 complete trains.
He did not provide more details about the city’s subway network.
Provincial officials say accelerating the subway’s construction is essential for the shrine city, as the increasing urban development, aging public transportation fleet and substandard vehicles plying the streets are worsening its air pollution.
“A subway can help tackle these issues, which are common to all metropolises,” Saqqaian-Nejad added.