EghtesadOnline: Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Iran in February, the country’s public transportation system has incurred a massive loss of over 20 trillion rials ($68.6 million), an official with Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization declared.
According to Daryoush Baqer-Javan, the loss includes the revenue of employees and companies directly and indirectly involved in the public transportation sector, Qudsonline.ir reported.
Javan said that with the spread of the viral disease, the number of urban and intercity passengers has seen a 40% fall and the frequency of the transport fleet travels has decreased by 28%, causing a huge loss of income in the sector.
“If the loss is compensated by the state, the money can be used to renew the dilapidated transport vehicles and pay the drivers’ delayed wages,” Baqer-Javan said.
“To help the intercity bus drivers put their lives together in the post-coronavirus time, the government has provided them with loans worth 60 million rials [$205].”
The official noted that so far, 76% of bus drivers have received the loan, announcing that negotiations are underway with the authorities to specify another round of financial aid for the transport staff.
The public transportation system, including urban and intercity sectors, are one of the most vulnerable in terms of Covid-19 infection risk, he added.
Underlining the measures taken in the transport sector for curbing the spread of the disease, Baqer-Javan said, “Since the outbreak in Iran, preventive healthcare protocols were implemented. Our staff and the passengers have adhered to the hygienic rules and the vehicles have been regularly sanitized.”
He also said hand sanitizers and facemasks are distributed among passengers to maximize health protection during their trips.
“Although the number of travelers in some trips does not surpass two or three, the transportation organization has not reduced the bus dispatching times in order to ensure that the transport sector is working properly,” he said.
In order to minimize social interaction during the trip process, online ticket purchase is available for all bus routes.
Losses in The Capital
Three months after the Covid-19 entered the country, Tehran City Council announced that the city’s public month.
In late May, Mohammad Alikhani, the head of TCC's Transportation Commission, said that with the spread of Covid-19, a majority of people opt for private vehicles over public means of transportation for daily commutation.
"Normally, the public transport system handles over five million travels a day. The figure has shrunk to less than one million these days, hurting the livelihood of bus and taxi drivers," he said then.
“Cab and bus fleets operate with a lot of empty seats, as only 40% of their capacity are utilized.”
Alikhani noted that social distancing is ignored in public places such as malls, emphasizing that the problem should be solved as soon as possible.
Social distancing, or remaining at least a meter and a half apart from other people, is considered the most effective way of controlling and cutting the coronavirus infection chain.
To achieve this objective, the government keeps encouraging people to stay home and use private cars for commuting, if they have to.
However, some challenges have emerged ever since, including a huge loss of income for the public transportation system, including taxis, buses and the subway. The loss of revenue should be added to the extra expenditure spent on disinfectants and protective items used in the fleet.
Talks of using the idle capacity of public transportation have raised concerns over the high risk of contamination in public vehicles.
Yousef Hojjat, the head of Tehran Municipality’s Transportation and Traffic Organization, said a large number of people who do not own a private car inevitably take a bus or taxi, or use the subway, to get to work.
“Keeping a reasonable distance between passengers becomes almost impossible when the number of passengers keeps rising," he said.
“The virus is still spreading and infecting people in the city and the situation has deteriorated. The resumption of social activities can make it tough to handle mortalities related to the disease.”
Similarly, Mohsen Hashemi the chairman of TCC, underlined the warnings of Health Ministry and professionals over the risk of contamination in the use of public means of transportation.
“Public vehicles are more polluted compared to universities and schools. So extra care should be taken by citizens using them,” he said.
Adding to his concerns, Hashemi said the ventilation system of subway trains is concentrated, which means that the air in wagons is constantly circulating and combining with the air outside the train.
“This means one infected person in a train car can potentially pollute the air in all cars,” he added.
Hashemi noted that social distancing is almost impossible in a crowded city like Tehran unless more buses, taxis and train cars are added to the public transportation fleet.
Iran reported the virus outbreak in mid-February, which has so far taken the lives of 25,222 people out of a total of 439,882 infected people.
According to Iran’s Health Ministry, 369,842 patients have so far recovered from the disease.