Even though the Rouhani administration has been in office for only three years, Akhoundi’s speech showed that his ministry had already addressed a large array of challenges. He even took the liberty to emphasize two dossiers whose results are already noticeable: housing and air transport.
In his activity report, more comprehensive than his speech in parliament, the minister elaborated on the administration’s action as follows:
“Our priority has been to give Iran her fair place in the region and the world, especially after a period of uncertainty that captured our diplomatic resources during the JCPOA negotiations.”
According to him, not only is the JCPOA an agreement but it is above all an international acknowledgment of the Iranian position and power. After more than 2,000 years, the Iranian civilization has remained at the crossroad of the West and the East, the North and the South. Unfortunately, in the last few years, Iran has been irrational and ill-advised, offering to rivals privileges that naturally belong to Iran.
Akhoundi also talked about the launching of new air routes from Iran:
“Our absolute priority regarding air transport is that Iran become a hub at the center of major international routes. We need to show the world that Iran has the capacity to offer more safety and more comfort at competitive costs. This is why our first goal is to renew our fleet. Consequently, we want to multiply air connections between Iran and the world by redefining international routes, opening our borders and shrinking distances. In this respect, traffic in the Iranian airspace has already doubled.”
The ministry is also in charge of another important dossier dealing with the modernization of navigation systems for which Akhoundi announced that $250 had already been invested.
The minister recalled that since 2004, the international airport of Tehran has received no investment whatsoever. The capacity of Mehrabad (Tehran’s only civil airport until IKA opening in 2004 and currently a hub for domestic routes) was 50 million passengers per year whereas this airport keeps attracting only 6 million today. The development program that will allow the opening of a second terminal at IKA with a capacity of 5 million passengers as soon as this year (the completion of the project was initially due by may 2016) has already been acted. The long-run goal is to make IKA a regional hub. Consequently, Akhoundi insisted on
“the creation of a multimodal platform that should place the airport at the crossroad of international railways and freeways to enhance its connectivity.”
The minister also talked about the renewal of the Iranian air fleet as follows: “In order to increase the competitiveness of our companies and the prosperity of the nation, we need 400 middle-range and long-range aircrafts and a hundred short-range aircrafts. This means that we are ready to invest $50 billion dollars. The ministry of transportation has launched negotiations with aeronautic manufacturers in the wings of the nuclear talks so we could communicate on our intentions. From the beginning, we have wished to dismiss all intermediaries and speculators of any kind to come to an agreement as soon as possible. We have signed a contract with Airbus for the purchase of 138 airplanes and discussions with Boeing should lead to a transaction that will soon be announced.”
Akhoundi recalled that $40 million from the National Development Fund had helped expanding the infrastructures of Chabahar’s port on the Oman sea and that $100 million had contributed to the extension of Shahid Rajai’s terminal, the new denomination of Bandar Abbas’s port. Moreover, contracts have been signed for the construction of the high-speed Tehran-Qom-Esfahan railroads and the electrification of its Tehran-Mashhad counterpart, for a total investment of $2 billion. As Iran will need $17 billion of investments for such projects, the minister stated: “Last November, we withdrew 55-year-old trains from rail traffic, this year 45-year-old trains are expected to be withdrawn and next year, those older than 35 will have disappeared.
If we want to address the question of air pollution, we will need to focus our priorities on increasing the commuting transportation offer since 450,000 cars enter and exit Tehran on a daily basis.
Fortunately, two million passengers commuted on rail transports last year in the Province of Tehran. This figure should rise up to 4.6 million this year and hopefully to 7 million next year. The Tehran-North freeway is largely under construction and a 32-km-long section will open next year. This project should shorten distances by more than 60 km in total.” According to Akhoundi, the cooperation with the oil ministry has also helped to reach the decision to withdraw 65,000 old trucks from the roads.