Iranian politics must take back seat

10 March 2010

Tehran’s plans for a $10bn rail upgrade is welcome news for commuters in the congested capital

Tehran is currently spending $10bn to upgrade its metro network, but it is still not enough to prevent growing congestion in the Iranian capital.

The city’s long-term plans will see it have 430km of metro lines by 2030. By then Tehran and its satellite cities will be home to 20 million people, up from 12 million today, and analysts predict daily metro users will touch 10 million – a big leap from the 1 million, who currently use the transport service.

The expansion involves construction work on four new lines, 3, 4, 6 and 7, which will be operational by 2018. The Tehran Urban & Suburban Railway Company (TUSRC) has plans to build a further two metro lines and four express lines serving the growing satellite cities of the capital.

The speed at which Tehran is moving to tackle congestion is a refreshing change. It first began planning for a rail network in 1978 but it was delayed by the 1979 revolution. Later, funding issues meant the city’s first metro line did not open until 1999.

Today, Tehran appears to have put those problems behind it. The revolution was more than 30 years ago and there is a clear structure in place for funding.

Half of the $10bn budget allocated to TUSRC for the four lines being built comes from the government, with the remaining funds to be given by the Tehran Municipality.

But as always, political tensions still remain in the country. In 2009, president Mahmoud Ahmedinajad said he planned to give control of the metro back to the government, snubbing the TUSRC, which is headed by Mohsen Hashemi, the eldest son of Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, a former president of Iran and supporter of Ahmadinejad’s reformist election rival Mir Hossein Mousavi.

If Iran can allow politics to take a back seat and focus on tackling congestion then Tehran will be able to reach its ambitious transport plans for 2030. 

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