TM’s Metro Line 7 Plan Full of Holes

The municipality is accused by impartial quarters and independent urban planners of rushing to open the line with little regard to safety protocols
Metro Line 7 opened on June 10 but problems persist.Metro Line 7 opened on June 10 but problems persist.

Questions still linger over the safety of Tehran’s Metro Line 7 more than a month after it opened with unwanted fanfare by the municipality on June 10.

Rahmatollah Hafezi, chairman of the Environment and Health Commission at the Tehran City Council, is a staunch critic who insists the official launch of the line was a bit too premature. He has twice presented documents on the line’s lack of safety in council meetings.

The municipality is accused by impartial quarters and independent urban planners  of rushing to open the line with little regard to safety protocols and acceptable international standards. The city council has been reviewing the case since the line partially opened. It now operates only for three hours – an unusual reality possibly unseen and unheard of in any other country.

Following the first meeting, two councilors, Ahmad Donyamali and Eqbal Shakeri, visited the line to inspect the conditions at close range.

Hafezi later said he had been informed about the inspection tour too late and was thus unable to attend.

To add heat on the Tehran Municipality, and in spite of protests by the pro-TM city council chairman, Mehdi Chamran, Hafezi presented the copy of a letter to the council outlining the major problems of the new subway line.

The letter had been sent to Mohammad Ahmadi Bafandeh, director of the Tehran Urban & Suburban Railway Company by authorities in charge of Line 7.

In it the subway company had been urged to “conduct test runs without passengers” because “the line’s safety is uncertain and providing emergency services would be nigh on impossible.”

The city council, which has historically been a strong supporter of Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, finally caved in to the media pressure and let Hafezi, along with Mohsen Sorkhu, chairman of the council’s Urban Traffic and Transport Committee, to inspect Line 7 earlier this week, ILNA reported.

According to Hafezi, the issues mentioned in the letter were true to a tee.

“Some issues, such as the installation of optical fibers, have been addressed, but most other problems persist,” he told the news agency.

The subway’s signaling system is only partially operational and does not cover the entire line. Metro authorities claim that the system is operating at a level sufficient for present demand.

Qalibaf who has been at the helm for more than 12 years is often castigated for not doing enough to improve and expand public transport in the city of more than 13 million people.

A look at the state of public transport buses (old, dilapidated and almost broken down) on many routes in and around the overcrowded capital shows to what extent senior urban authorities have failed to walk the talk.

Long divorced from constructive criticism, the mayor and his minions often complain of “lack of funding and support from the government”.  From his side there is very little mention about what really happens to the billions the municipality collects in the form of taxes and tariffs every year.

Responding to his influential critics, the mayor while inaugurating Metro Line 7 last month said “A great job has been done…But we have been at the receiving end of taunts and torments.”

In the same breath the former presidential candidate singled out his opponents without naming them. “Those who have never ever undertaken one meter of land excavation work now want to lecture about urbanization.”

  Poor Ventilation

Hafezi also expressed concern about the poor ventilation in the tunnel.

“Ventilators have not been installed and the air passageways are blocked because the metro company does not yet own the land above the tunnels to be able to drill holes for ventilation,” he said.

He also quoted metro officials as saying that “ventilators are not necessary.”

“If they are not necessary, why have they been designed?” Hafezi asked as a matter of fact.

Electricity has to come from 19 substations while it is currently fed by only two. Although this capacity meets current needs, it will certainly not suffice if and when the line operates at full capacity.

As if all this confusion was not enough, metro officials claim that the emergency access doors are “well in place” but rumor has it that the “emergency exits are locked.”

The councilor demanded metro authorities guarantee people’s safety and take full responsibility for any incident before continuing the controversial project.

Currently, there are seven stations on the new route. Once completed by the end of this fiscal in March 2018, the line will cover 31 kilometers with the capacity to handle one million passengers every day.

Five stations between the first (San’at Square) and last (Basij) stations are ready, but the route is almost empty due to lack of trains, which is why critics say the opening of Line 7 was premature.

As per the municipality’s five-year plan (2013-18), Line 7, which connects the capital’s northwestern flank to the southeastern parts, was scheduled for completion by 2015.

Two years and seven stations later this metro expansion plan dubbed as “great” by the man in charge is full of holes with none in the TM power structure able or willing to take responsibility.

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