EghtesadOnline: Tehran’s transportation fleet requires 7,000 new high-quality buses to deliver adequate mobility services to the public, the head of Tehran Bus Company said.
Mahmoud Tarfa added that 50% of the buses operating in Tehran’s fleet, accounting for 3,500 vehicles, are dilapidated and in dire need of repair or replacement, Hamshahri Online reported.
“Over one million citizens commute in the capital by bus every day. The sudden exclusion of old vehicles from the fleet will cause capacity deficiency and problems in terms of social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“TBC needs state support to boost its services and meet the urban mobility demands. However, in the past several years, Tehran Municipality has been the only institution making efforts in this regard.”
Tarfa explained that since 2016, the government has not extended fiscal support for public transportation and the TM has been single-handedly and slowly streamlining the transport fleet.
“Last summer, the municipality signed an agreement with Iran Khodro Company for manufacturing 250 buses for Tehran’s transport system. A hundred buses were delivered to TBC in November 2020 and another 110 vehicles were delivered on Saturday. The remaining 40 buses are planned to join the fleet by the current [fiscal] yearend [March].”
The TBC chief noted that although such renewals can help restore the ailing fleet, larger projects are required for a major revival of the system.
“Around 5,700 buses are operating in the city, over half of which is at least 12 years old and ready to be phased out. The remaining vehicles are by no means efficient and only usable for a short period,” he said.
He added that the transportation fleet has failed to attract private investors, “because investors seek productivity and profit, which cannot be found in the transportation sector”.
The sector has a limited budget and operational capacity, while the dilapidation of vehicles has incurred losses, he added.
Asked if the long history of budget deficiency is rooted in officials’ inaction in pursuing financial procedures, Tarfa said, “Authorities in the transportation sector have always put maximum effort in using the available resources. The management system has no right to deprive the city of an efficient transportation network through its apathy.”
Pointing to the urban managers’ recent call for lawmakers to revise the share of transportation in the 2021-22 budget bill, the TBC chief said fortunately, the government’s subsidy on transportation fares is going to quadruple.
“In case the amendment is ratified by Majlis, the subsidy will reach 10 trillion rials [$41.15 million] for all Iranian metropolises. Tehran’s share of the money will hopefully be big,” he said.
Streamlining the dilapidated bus fleet in the capital has posed a perpetual challenge for officials, compelling them to take more efficient actions.
Following a recent effort to make things right with the capital’s public transport, Iran’s Vice President for Science and Technology has launched a joint initiative with the University of Tehran for converting diesel- and gas-powered buses currently operating in the capital city into electric vehicles.
According to Shahriar Zaini, the head of Space Technologies Development Center at the vice presidential office, the project is aimed at revamping the aging public transportation fleet and curbing air pollution in the city.
The project entails the replacement of the vehicles’ combustion components with electric engine system, performance optimization and weight reduction
“Up to 80% of electric parts, including drive system, engines, batteries, DC converters and chargers, have been locally produced in collaboration with Iranian knowledge-based companies,” he said.
Zaini noted that the first prototype is planned to be unveiled in early June.
“This is a revolutionary move in the country’s transportation sector and a great investment opportunity,” he said, calling on private entities and state institutions to propel the plan with financial support.
In late January, Tehran Municipality declared that it plans to spend 5 trillion rials ($20.57 million) on new buses to streamline the dilapidated bus fleet in the capital.
Tarfa had also said earlier that TM has issued participatory bonds worth 15 trillion rials ($61.72 million), one-third of which or $21.2 million are to be used for upgrading the bus fleet and the rest will be invested on subway development.
“Besides the bonds, the municipality will also open up its coffers to expedite the bus fleet renewal,” he said.
Tarfa noted that a single-cabin bus costs around 40 billion rials ($164,000).
Tough Economic Times
In view of the economic hardships facing Iran due to the reimposition of US sanctions, the renovation of transportation fleet is facing difficulties.
The price of new passenger vehicles has seen a threefold jump, just like any other commodity.
After US President Donald Trump reneged on Iran’s nuclear accord and reimposed sanctions against Tehran last summer, the Iranian rial lost almost 70% of its value over the past year.
On Saturday, the US dollar was traded at 243,000 rials in Tehran while it hardly fetched 42,000 rials in March 2018.
Following the sanctions, many foreign suppliers of vehicles and parts suspended collaboration with Iranian firms. The country cannot afford to import new buses in large numbers and local manufacturers do not have an adequate volume of parts to boost production.
These factors have derailed schemes for overhauling the transportation fleet. However, with the help of the government and automakers, urban planners are devising solutions to implement these schemes.
The commitment of officials and the timely allocation of funds will ensure these efforts yield the desired result.