After seven years of stalled negotiations, Masoud Dorosti, the managing director of the Tehran Metro, confirmed the municipality’s decision to buy 791 metro trains from China.

Dorosti admitted that due to economic challenges and sanctions, there has been a backlog in the subway in the last few years, saying the city has "a fleet that is largely worn out and the useful life of many wagons is coming to an end,” warning that there is still the possibility of occasional breakdowns without properly renovating the fleet.

According to the official, “In the last one or two years, at least 15 stations and 20 kilometers of tunnels have been added to the metro and after the Covid pandemic, we have witnessed an increase in passengers but our infrastructure has not been upgraded since five years ago.”

Jafar Tashakori Hashemi, the head of the Transportation Commission of the Tehran City Council, blamed the municipality for the increasing breakdowns in the capital’s aging metro network.

Despite the fact that the municipality has adequate funds, it has failed to adopt the necessary measures to repair the metro trains.

According to the official, failure rates in the Tehran subway are much higher than those of the subways of the developed countries where “preventive repairs” are regularly carried out on the wagons.

“We have time and again warned the municipality regarding the necessity of conducting periodic inspections and repairs of metro wagons as well as their fundamental renovation or overhaul,” he pointed out.

Last month, Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani, responsible for pushing the deal through, announced several contracts were signed with Chinese companies to revamp the capital’s infrastructure, including transportation and construction projects.

According to Zakani, China will also start building housing units in the capital soon. The announcement was met with many negative reactions in Iran. Ahmad Khorram, former Roads and Transportation Minister, lambasted the deal as an "insult to Iran's engineering community" while the local economy is in freefall.

Economic ties between the two nations have once again been rocky in recent months as Iran becomes increasingly dependent on China amidst global sanctions against it for its nuclear program, support for Russia's war on Ukraine and human rights violations.

China's oil trade with Iran stalled in January as Tehran withheld shipments and demanded higher prices from its top client, tightening cheap supply for the world's biggest crude importer.

However, while China remains Iran's largest trade partner, the strategic partnership announced in 2016 is unlikely to bear the fruits Tehran hoped. The two nations announced they would increase trade to $600bn by 2026 but last year, according to the International Monetary Fund’s Direction of Trade Statistics data, the volume of trade reached just $12.5bn.

The Iran-backed Houthi blockade of the Red Sea has also harmed Tehran’s relations with Beijing, no less affected by the critical trade and logistics route’s maritime tensions. How the relationship continues is yet to be seen but with projects in the pipeline, Iran is using its construction and infrastructure projects with China to solidify ties, at least for now.

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