Moving 2m Nowruz Travelers

Moving 2m Nowruz TravelersMoving 2m Nowruz Travelers

The capacity of the country’s railway fleet has increased for the Nowruz holiday season, starting on March 20, and ending on April 2, Persian daily Ta’adol quoted a deputy of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (IRIA) Seyed Mohammad Rashedi as saying.

The IRIA is getting prepared to transport 2 million travelers during the spring holiday season.  Compared to the previous holiday season, train capacity has increased 5%.  The increase is reflected in the number of trains on the Tehran-Mashhad rail-line which is increased to 60, the Mashhad beltway increased to 30.  A number of substitute coaches and buses are also stationed at major stations to accommodate any spill-over.

Passengers during the holiday season comprise mainly of Iranian families, Rashedi said. Safety is a major priority for the railway companies.

  Rise in Online Booking

This year travelers can advance purchase their tickets online in a stress-free environment; although certain routes are already fully booked. 50% of advance ticket purchases were conducted online, with the remainder through travel agencies. Online sales have increased compared to previous years.

Measures have been taken to improve safety of train travel, and the quality of services. Companies have been reminded to adhere to strict standards of personal safety and security, sanitation and hygiene (including food hygiene), as well as maintenance and upkeep of the coaches.  

Holiday ticket prices will not be raised. A price hike occurred some months ago, which was said to compensate for increased administration and processing costs as well as the inflation rate. Rail companies are authorized to offer discounts of up to 30%.  Discounts will be offered on certain routes.

  Compensation for Delays

To limit delays, IRIA has started to record arrival times. Arrival times are registered on tickets. A refund table has been devised. Depending on how late a train reaches its destination, 50 to 100 percent of the ticket price will be refunded to travelers. Accordingly, if a train is delayed by up to three hours, travelers can be refunded half of their ticket price. If however the train extends 8 hours delay tickets will be fully refunded.

  Privatizing Rail Sector, Wrong Decision

 Many countries have now concluded that privatizing the rail industry is wrong, Rashedi said. IRIA supports its affiliated private sector company, but notes not a single coach has recently been invested in. “Name me one investor who has bought a new coach?” Rashedi asked rhetorically, adding, that in the 4th and 5th economic development plans, the average lifespan of the railway fleet was to be reduced to 15 years; but the fleet is now 29 years old.

In 2006 and 2007 the state owned firm imported some new coaches, thus reducing the average lifespan of the fleet to 23 years. But there were to be more agreements allocating 600 new coaches, none of which materialized. Many countries have come to the conclusion that transferring the rail industry to private ownership was not a good decision. The rail sector should be under government support, as in many European countries.

Rashedi saw only two ways forward, either the government should take over the railway fleet and with an allocated budget to ensure that trains are renewed on a rolling basis, or if the private sector is to be supported then costs should be reduced and restrictions eased.

“If diesel is transferred to the private sector, and if diesel engines of locomotives are supplied by the private sector, prices will be much higher than they are now,” he added.