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EghtesadOnline: The expansion of Tehran’s subway network has become the core part of the capital's mobility plan and more people are discovering it as a cost-effective, traffic-free mode of transportation.

Nonetheless, the ground reality is that the subway trains have already begun to degrade.

According to Jafar Tashakkori-Hashemi, chairman of Tehran City Council's Transportation Commission, 500 out of 1,500 operating subway wagons are in dire need of an overhaul, Tasnim News Agency reported.

As per the latest measure taken to address the issue, Tehran Municipality have forged a contract with Tehran Wagon Manufacturing Company for the production of 106 subway cars and work will start as soon as an initial payment is made to the company.

According to Tehran Metro CEO Ali Emam, TWMC is waiting for Tehran City Council to deliver a portion of the contract price, which will most likely be funded from the sale of participation bonds.

The wagons would be used to assemble 14 trains with seven wagons and one train with eight wagons, according to the official, who explained that the lanes of Tehran subway lines 1, 2 and 4 are 140 meters long, which are suitable for seven-car trains, while eight-car wagons are suitable for lines 3, 4 and 7.

Emam stated that the contracted wagons will have 85% of local components and that domestic producers and knowledge-based companies have joined forces to increase indigenization in the sector. 

"Experts are optimistic that 100% domestically-made subway wagons will become operational by the end of the current fiscal year," he added.

Early this month, Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani said the government has promised to finance the purchase of 1,050 wagons in the near future.

“Based on these talks, 630 wagons will be supplied by foreign companies and 420 will be ordered from domestic producers,” he said.

“The foreign purchase plan dates back to early 2018, when a Chinese rail company and Tehran Wagon Manufacturing Company won the tender to build and supply 630 cars to Tehran's subway.”

The mayor, however, blamed mismanagement and financial issues for the lack of progress in this regard.

The government is committed to supplying 2,000 train cars for Tehran Metro during the Sixth Five-Year Development Plan (2017-22).

“The trains were to be assembled with 55% of domestically-made parts. Fortunately, with the support of technology ecosystem, the domestic production capacity has increased remarkably in the past few years,” he said.



Locally-Made Wagons

In August 2020, Iranian knowledge-based companies and tech firms unveiled a largely localized subway wagon to alleviate the country’s dependency on foreign resources for subway development plans.

According to tech officials, the plan for expanding domestic producers’ share in subway development was launched a decade ago and their efforts have finally paid off.

“We could have bought eight-wagon trains for over €20 million, but the localization project saves up to €12 million for each train,” Sorena Sattari, the former vice president for science and technology, had said earlier.

He stressed that Tehran Metro needs 1,500 wagons, the production of which will boost urban transportation capacity by 6 million people.



Renovations Underway

In order to quickly optimize the subway system before the likely opening of schools in the coming weeks, Tehran Urban and Suburban Railway Company started renovation projects.

According to Ali Abdollahpour, the head of TUSRC, 37 DC and 37 AC trains are undergoing major repairs and will be back in service within a month.

The official also stated that five two-story train cars on the intercity Line 5, which connects Tehran to the neighboring Alborz Province, were recently renovated and resumed services.

“The renovation has been funded from the state budget and the resources of Tehran Municipality,” Abdollahpour explained, adding that a lack of financial resources had delayed repairs that undercut the safety and efficiency of the transportation system. 

“After every 900,000 kilometers of travel, trains should undergo extensive technical inspections and repairs,” he said.

“Currently, 171 trains operate in Tehran's subway, with at least 60% of them in desperate need of repair.”

For years, urban planners have prioritized the expansion of high-speed and clean mode of transportation in congested cities. However, due to an economic downturn and US sanctions, the induction of new wagons and relevant technologies lost priority.

According to Tashakkori-Hashemi, buying new train cars from foreign suppliers is not an option for Tehran due to soaring prices. 

“The establishment of each kilometer of railroad costs 12 trillion rials [$43.6 million] and the addition of 30 kilometers of new railroads to the existing subway system would require more than 360 trillion rials [$1.3 billion],” he added.

Tashakkori noted that relying solely on the government's limited coffers to finance such a project will fail to overhaul the transportation system.

“New private resources should be prepared through negotiations and repair policies should prioritize imports,” he said.


Tehran wagons Subway