The EBRD in collaboration with the EU and the EIB is helping to restore the capital’s metro service.
Back in 1971 when the construction of a metro started in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, and the country was part of the Soviet Union, it was considered that metro systems were suited to cities with over 1 million residents and tram systems to those with under 1 million. Building a metro in Yerevan, then with less than a million people, might be viewed as astute forward thinking. Today, Yerevan Metropolitan Karen Demirchyan – named after the man who convinced the then Soviet Communist Party leadership that Armenia needed the metro – serves over 19 million passengers annually.
Growth and decline of the metro
Since opening in 1981, Yerevan Metro has grown from a four-station system extending 7.6 km to 10 stations over 11 km. It has 70 Russian-made carriages, although only 25 carriages are safe to run, with services every five minutes at peak times and every eight minutes off-peak. In past years the metro has been losing passengers to competition from minibuses because of under-investment. This in turn is overcrowding Yerevan’s roads and causing traffic and road safety problems.
Restoring a reliable transport service
Intent on regaining its passenger share and restoring a safe and reliable service, Yerevan Metro approached the EBRD and European Investment Bank (EIB) to finance the renovation of the system. An EBRD loan of €5 million is being matched by the EIB. In addition, the European Union’s Neighbourhood Investment Facility has advanced an investment grant of €5 million. The total funding will finance refurbishment of the rolling stock, rehabilitation of worn-out track and power supply components, purchase of a maintenance trolley and replacement of water pumping stations.
This financing comes at a critical time when liquidity from local commercial banks has dried up as a result of the financial crisis. However, Yerevan Metro is not just receiving new finance. Through a separate project funded by the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund, it is looking into ways of improving its operational performance. A second phase of renovation will follow the first investment, restoring the metro’s fortunes.