YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The government announced on Thursday that it has secured 16.5 million euros ($23 million) in external grants and loans for modernizing Yerevan’s disused underground metro system.
According to Finance Minister Tigran Davtian, the funding will be provided by the European Union, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB). He said the European Commission will grant 6.5 million euros of the sum, while the EBRD and the EIB will lend 5 million euros each to the state-owned subway.
The government formally agreed to guarantee the repayment of those loans at its weekly meeting chaired by Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan.
A spokeswoman for the Yerevan metro, Ninel Vartanian, told RFE/RL that the money will be spent on improving passenger safety by upgrading its rail cars, escalators and network of underground cables. “We have always ensured the network’s security,” she said. “But since our facilities and equipment are 30 years old we need to take measures requiring more large-scale investments.”
The metro, which has only one line consisting of ten stations, received 1.7 billion drams ($4.5 million) in government funding for capital repairs last year and is expected to remain heavily dependent on state subsidies in the foreseeable future. Its limited reach has always put it in a disadvantaged position vis-à-vis other public transportation means, notably privately owned minibuses.
Yerevan’s existing architectural master plan calls for the construction of four new metro stations by 2020, which would cost an estimated $160 million. “The government will hardly be able to provide such sums,” admitted Vartanian.