Resourceless Karaj Subway Stalls
EghtesadOnline: The subway project of Karaj, the provincial center of Alborz, has stalled over lack of funds and mismanagement, as progress faltered interminably since its inception in 2006.
The network was planned to stretch over 100 kilometers throughout the city and link up with the Tehran-Karaj subway. However, only 12 kilometers of the tunnels have been dug and the project has made little progress over the past 15 years, more because of a lack of will among urban officials than inadequate funding.
During a visit to the construction site on Friday, Alborz Governor-General Mojtaba Abdollahi stated that officials are now facing soaring expenditures as a result of prolonged procrastination in the construction project, which has added to its chronic financial problems.
"Today, each kilometer of subway line costs 12 trillion rials [$42.85 million] to build," he said, adding that such a figure is far above Karaj Municipality's budget and the project requires a steady financial source to continue.
According to a worksheet published by Karaj Urban and Suburban Railway Organization, over 93% of the first phase of Line 2 of the subway have been completed and needs 4.9 trillion rials ($17.5 million) for becoming operational.
Only 2.21% of its construction work remain and 4.15% of equipment need to be procured, KUASRO’s report says.
The first phase encompasses six stations and 5.5 kilometers from Jahanshahr to Golshahr districts.
Ali Kamalizadeh, a former Karaj mayor, earlier said tunneling, completion of power substation, cable installation and the remaining construction work require 904 billion rials ($3.2 million).
In addition, the installation of equipment, including elevators, escalators, fire extinguishers, illumination and telecom devices, power supply, electronic payment system, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, needs another 4 trillion rials ($14.2 million).
After completion, the line will connect Kamalshahr in the far west of the city to Shahid Soltani Bridge in the east with 27 kilometers of railroad and 27 stations.
A couple of months ago, Tehran City Council ?hairman Mohsen Hashemi, who earlier headed Tehran Metro Company, said 90% of tunneling had been completed but major equipment needed to be procured.
Speaking of financial issues, Hashemi said 4 trillion rials ($14.13 million) of participatory bonds issued last year are yet to be redeemed, which will spur the development of Line 2.
In November 2020, Kamalizadeh had said the construction of Line 5 of Karaj Metro is undergoing field studies and work is expected to commence soon.
Since then, however, no progress has been reported.
Line 5 will connect Rajaei-Shahr in the north to Mohammad-Shahr in the south of the city with 10 stations.
Some officials are pessimistic about the project’s rate of progress and believe that the residents of Karaj have no hope of seeing the completion of the subway anytime soon, which could help alleviate its worsening traffic and air pollution.
Mansour Vahidi, a member of Karaj City Council, said the metro project will not become operational even after six years.
“More than a decade has passed since the launch of the Karaj subway project, but mismanagement of resources and corruption have impeded progress,” he said.
“The progress so far is insignificant compared to the total volume of the remaining construction.”
Siphoning of Fund
At one stage, Hossein Ardakani, another member of the city council, had claimed that over 500 workers using 420 heavy machineries are working round the clock on the project, stressing that lack of funds has always been a problem.
The councilor accused the former administration of undermining the project.
The former city council was elected in May 2017 and had announced its determination to complete the subway “as soon as possible”, but the project’s infrastructure is nowhere in sight.
Mohammad Rostami, the project’s executive manager, last year said that since 2007, close to 5 billion rials ($17,600) have been spent monthly on the project, on which 700 billion rials ($2.47 million) have been spent so far.
Rostami had said that in the best-case scenario and in view of the current state of affairs, the first line of the subway network, which is 27-km long, will become operational in three years, provided the monthly allocation of funds increases to 800 billion rials ($2.8 million).
In other words, he was asking for $104 million over the next three years.
The Karaj subway project is funded through several sources, including revenues from Karaj Municipality, government funding and bonds.
In late August 2020, Rahim Khastou, the former vice chairman of Karaj City Council, said the budget allocated to the project is 10 times less than that of the Tehran subway project and that is why the work has not proceeded well.
City officials expect the government’s financial support to expedite the process.