EghtesadOnline: Iran’s Oil Ministry has invested $15 million in Tehran Metro to help expand the capital’s public transportation network, the oil minister wrote on Twitter.
Bijan Namdar Zanganeh wrote that the money would be used to add trains to the network.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, local authorities had cautioned that social distancing would not be possible on crowded Tehran subway trains.
Zanganeh noted that the money has been supplied from revenue generated from fuel price rationing scheme that was introduced in November 2019.
“The ministry paid 8.3% of the financial aid to Tehran Metro in mid-February and the remaining 91.6% were delivered in April,” Zanganeh told state broadcaster IRIB.
“The monetary aid is expected to help Tehran Metro Company buy new train cars and help ease the challenges faced by the city’s subway system.”
More trains and consequently less crowded wagons will help passengers maintain the recommended distance. Observing social distancing is the most effective way of flattening the coronavirus curve in a crowded city like Tehran, so it is important to add new wagons to the metro system soon.
Iran reported the outbreak of Covid-19 in mid-February. As of May 9, the virus has infected 104,691 people, claiming 6,541 lives.
According to Iran’s Health Ministry, 83,837 patients have recovered from the disease.
Since April 11, the so-called low-risk businesses have resumed activities. A large number of people who do not own a private car inevitably take a bus or taxi, or use subway to get to work.
Yousef Hojjat, the head of Transportation and Traffic Organization of Tehran Municipality, says the number of people using Tehran’s subway daily has reached 600,000.
“Keeping a reasonable distance between passengers becomes almost impossible, when the number goes higher,” he said.
Before Covid-19, Tehran Metro used to carry up to 3 million passengers per day. Health experts warn that the use of public transport can increase the coronavirus infection risk.
“The virus is still spreading and infecting people in the city and the situation has not normalized. The resumption of social activities can make it tough to handle mortalities related to the disease,” Hojjat said.
Similarly, Mohsen Hashemi, the chairman of Tehran City Council, had said earlier that social distancing is almost impossible in a crowded city like Tehran, unless the public transportation fleet is expanded.
Hashemi underlined the warnings of Health Ministry and professionals over the risk of contamination in the use of public means of transportation and said, “Public vehicles are more polluted compared to universities and schools. So extra care should be taken by citizens using them.”
The council chief suggested that boosting the production of vehicles can help increase the number of buses and taxis active in the transportation system.
“Only then people can partially adhere to social distancing,” he added.
To facilitate social distancing, urban officials have marked subway train seats to help passengers maintain a safe distance. The train headway has also shrunk by one to three minutes depending on the line, to curb the crowd.
However, the efficiency of signs declines when the train is packed with passengers.
The challenging task of developing the subway system in Iranian metropolises has raised concerns among urbanists. They censure mismanagement and lack of budget for the lagging progress.
Last week, 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.
“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.
Alikhani blamed the frustrating situation on US sanctions and said earlier, each train car cost 50 billion rials ($308,000).
But since 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.
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.