The Kurdish Globe
By Aiyob Mawloodi--Erbil
An amount of 8 billion IQD to be spent on designing 150 km of tramway
"Kickoff" for tramway project considered a "big step in the public transportation and infrastructural development in the region."
Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Ministry of Transportation and Communication signed separate contracts with three international firms to study, plan and design tram way systems for the three major cities of Kurdistan Region.
The companies, each of which is to be responsible for the design of one each in Erbil, Suleimaniya and Duhok cities, are expected to plan for a total of 150 kilometers of tramway.
The contracts were signed in the Ministry on Wednesday, February 16, 2011, by and between the KRG Transportation and Communication Minister, Anwar Jabali Shabo, and representatives from the three companies, two Italian and one Romanian.
The Italian F.G. Tecnopolo Company was contracted to investigate designing a 60-kilometer tramway plan for Erbil with a budget of 2,559,303,700 Iraqi Dinars, approximately US$2.150 million. A similar contract was awarded to the Romanian Terra Nova Company for the city of Duhok for a budget of 2.6 billion IQD, approximately US$2.18 million. The projected length of the tramway in Duhok is 40 kilometers.
A third contract for a 50-kilometer tramway design project, worth 2.8 billion Iraqi Dinars, approximately US$2.35 million, was awarded to S.G.I, another Italian company, to be implemented in Suleimaniya.
While the kickoff for these three parallel projects is considered a big step in the public transportation and infrastructural development in the region, it is still not clear how long this initial study and design phase will take, when the actual construction will start and when the service will be available to the public.
Currently, the public transportation sector in Kurdistan Region is in a big crisis and the quality of the service is way below the growing needs and expectations. Increasing traffic and life's complexity in the region, and especially in the three major cities of Erbil, Suleimaniya and Duhok, have already started to harm the region's economy and have tired people, especially the working community, which is the main user of such services.
The unreliability of the public transportation system has resulted in people's resorting to private transportation means, which has led to an uncontrolled increase in the number of cars and traffic.
According to experts, this situation is causing threefold harm to the economy. First, people get to work very late, something that decreases their working hours and energy, and hence reduces productivity. Another impact is on the environment as a result o this large number of cars. Moreover, lack of public transportation facilities and the need for private transportation solutions affects the income of the public and increases their transportation costs. All of these effects can create a considerable amount of danger to the economy.
Ismael Babakir, a bus driver in the city of Erbil, believes that the reason why the public transportation system is so weak is because it is not managed by a united transportation system and not run by professional private sector transportation companies.
"If there is a company that controls the transportation lines inside the cities and between cities, and modern technologies and systems are used, Kurdistan can have a very good and reliable transportation service," said Babakir as he waited at a bus station in downtown Erbil.
Hawar Abdul Aziz, a government employee who uses public transportation means to get to work every day, believes that even the best transportation systems, best companies and most modern technology would not work in a good way in Kurdistan if the mentality and awareness of the public is not going to change.
"Our people do not have the awareness and still don't know how to use public services, so we need to start with them rather than bringing in new buses and introducing tramways and railways," Abdul Aziz told the "Globe" before going into a minibus heading downtown on Erbil's Kirkuk Avenue.
Babakir, who was a bit concerned about his job being under risk with the introduction of a tramway, still seemed happy about the news and enthusiastic to see his city develop in a way that its population can use this modern service. "Why not let Erbil have a sign of modernity? Let our people have the same facilities that are available for the people in developed countries."