EghtesadOnline: In an effort to ease mobility in the capital city, 110 new buses have been added to Tehran’s public transportation fleet.
According to Mojtaba Shafiei, the deputy head of Transportation and Traffic Department at Tehran Municipality, the induction was made late last week as per the first phase of a contract with Iran Khodro Company (IKCO), the major domestic automaker, ISNA reported.
"The new buses are built as per Euro-4 standards and include emission control nano-filters, special ramps for disabled passengers and updated safety features," he said.
“The vehicles will ply on 10 bus lines in 10 districts of Tehran, which had the highest level of public dissatisfaction over lack of transportation services.”
Shafiei noted that an additional 65 buses will be inducted within a month to help streamline eight additional bus lines in the megacity.
Talks with IKCO are underway to add 100 more buses by the end of the current fiscal year (March 2022).
Noting that the manufacture of electric buses, as an alternative to gas and diesel buses, is also on the agenda, the official said that in Tehran, municipal officials are planning to add 50 e-buses to the transport fleet.
“Experts say this requires 1.6 trillion rials [$5.7 million], which were supposed to be supplied by the Plan and Budget Organization. However, talks are underway to encourage private investors for joining the project,” he added.
The TM official hoped that recent measures for producing electric vehicles and establishing the relevant infrastructure will expedite the electrification of public transportation.
Restoration of Old Vehicles
Also speaking at the unveiling event, Mahmoud Tarfa, the head of Tehran Bus Company, said that besides the addition of brand-new buses, the restoration of age-old vehicles is also on track.
“The renovation of 175 dilapidated buses has started to make the best out of the worst situation in order to offer better mobility services in the city,” he added.
Tarfa noted that 300 double-decker buses that were retired due to dilapidation would also be restored to again offer services.
“The current state of public transportation in Tehran is a result of years of inaction. Hopefully, such compensatory moves, albeit at a low level, will be helpful,” he added.
According to Tarfa, Tehran’s transportation fleet requires 7,000 new high-quality buses to provide adequate services.
He 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.
“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.
Tarfa explained that since 2016, the government has not extended fiscal support for public transportation and Tehran Municipality has been single-handedly and slowly streamlining the transport fleet.
Although small-scale renewals can help restore the ailing fleet, larger projects are required for overhauling public transportation.
He added that the transportation fleet has so far failed to attract private investors, “because investors seek productivity and profit, which are absent in the transportation sector”.
Tarfa said the sector has a limited budget and operational capacity, while the dilapidation of vehicles has incurred losses.
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 jumped threefold, just like any other commodity.
After the twice-impeached 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 280,000 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 because of sanctions and financial constraints, while 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 help yield the desired result.