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EghtesadOnline: Since the Iranian outbreak of coronavirus pandemic in February, the country’s taxi fleet has incurred a heavy loss of 8.26 trillion rials ($32.11 million), a deputy head of Iran Taxi Union declared.

According to Ali Aslani, the loss includes the wear and tear of vehicles and the revenue of employees and companies directly and indirectly involved in the cab fleet, IRNA reported.

Aslani said that with the spread of the viral disease, the number of urban and intercity passengers has seen a 40% decline and the frequency of taxi travels has decreased by 28%, causing a 65% fall in cab drivers’ average daily earning.

“Close to 124,000 taxi drivers, each with a daily income of 1.8 million rials ($6.99), are operating in metropolises and 296,000 are working in smaller cities with a daily income of around 1.1 million rials ($4.27),” he said.

“The monthly average income of a taxi driver hardly reaches 55 million rials [$213.5], over half of which is spent on fuel and maintenance.”

The official noted that as the pandemic crisis prolongs, the procurement of health protective materials, including facemask, gloves, face shield and plastic partition for inside the car cabin, has imposed extra costs on drivers and pushed them to the brink of bankruptcy.



Cab Drivers Killed by Corona

A recent survey by Tehran Taxi Organization showed Covid-199 has claimed the lives of 86 cab drivers in the capital city by early December.

Aslani said the only state benefit offered to cab drivers has been a loan worth 60 million rials ($233).

He said the number of drivers receiving the loans is yet to be announced, but the government will hopefully extend resources to support the hardworking sector.

With the spread of the viral disease, a majority of people opt for private vehicles over public means of transportation for daily commutation.

Social distancing, or remaining at least a meter and a half apart from other people, is considered the most practical way of controlling and cutting the coronavirus infection chain.

To achieve this aim, the government keeps encouraging people to stay home and use private cars for commuting, if they have to. The transport vehicles, especially cabs, are also obliged to operate with lower capacity.

The state measures, however, have caused some challenges, including an immense loss of income for the public transportation system, including taxis, buses and the subway. 



Multiple Pressures

While some Iranian businesses have adapted to virus restrictions and economic constraints, the transportation industry continues to suffer.

Mid-October, Mohammad Alikhani, the head of Tehran City Council’s Transportation Commission, said Tehran Metro and Tehran Bus Company have been facing a cash crunch since the US sanctions were reinstated in 2018.

“The spread of the novel coronavirus has lent another blow to the sector, shrinking the number of public vehicle passengers and inflicting a loss of 5 trillion rials [$19.41 million] on the two companies,” he said.

“Over 60% of buses working in Tehran are privately owned and they will stop working if their operations are not economically viable.”

Speaking to reporters, Mahmoud Tarfa, the head of Tehran Bus Company, said challenges facing public transportation are not a new story. 

“Tehran’s buses were already inadequate and dilapidated, and unable to provide a decent transport service to citizens. More than half of Tehran buses are over 12 years old and every day over 300 buses break down because of technical flaws,” he said.

Tarfa added that the viral outbreak has added to the sector’s problems, as the bus fleet’s daily frequency has reduced from 1.8 million to under 700,000.

“Bus drivers are not even recovering their expenses,” he said.

Pointing to the fact that the government has overlooked the sector for the past decade, Tarfa said, “We should wait and see if the government officials will eventually extend support to the public transportation system by the end of the current [fiscal] year {March 20, 2021].”



Hazardous Vehicles

Talks of transportation income loss as well as the high risk of contamination in congested public vehicles has raised concerns among officials and health experts.

Yousef Hojjat, the head of Tehran Municipality’s Transportation and Traffic Organization, said many 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 increases,” he said.

“The virus is still spreading and infecting people in the city, and the situation has not been normalized. 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 using public means of transportation.

He said the ventilation system of subway trains is concentrated, so the air in wagons is constantly circulating and combining with the air outside the train. 

“This means one infected person in a train car might 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.

By Dec. 28, Covid-19 has taken the lives of 54,693 people out of 1,200,465 infected people. 

According to Iran’s Health Ministry, 951,860 patients have recovered so far.


Iran Tehran coronavirus pandemic