- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 March 14, 2003 

Le Bus: French come to aid of Yerevan transport crisis

The French are scheduled to send 40 buses by the end of the year.While waiting for a bus to take her to work one day last week, Yerevan resident Narineh Harutyunyan, hardly considered that the ride could be anything but normal.

But on its way, the bus lost control from a blown tire and the driver and one passenger were killed and four others taken to hospital. Narineh says the driver took the hardest part of the crash, perhaps saving other lives while losing his.

Transportation specialists say the number of such bus accidents is increasing, as more buses are simply wearing out, but continue to be used because there are no replacements.

Most Yerevan buses have been in heavy use for more than 10 years, many on streets that, like the buses themselves, have become worn out from use and lack of money for repairs.

Minibuses (about 2,400) now rule Yerevan streets. But during Soviet times some 500 buses (in addition to electric trams) carried Yerevan passengers. Now only 65 remain. Many of the decommissioned form a rusting graveyard in one area of the city.

"If even in such hard financial conditions we could find money for purchasing many buses it would be senseless as this field works to the detriment of itself," says head of Transport Department of Yerevan Areg Barseghyan. "In the future we won't have money to take care of them." (At present the city is in debt about $20,000 in bus-related expenses.)

Anyway some wheels of good fortune have recently rolled into Yerevan, from France.

As a result of cooperation between Lyon and Yerevan last week 10 Renault buses were brought to the capital and will soon be put to use.

Where old buses go to die.The buses are not new, but neither are they as old as the ones now being used. Armenia Diaspora bought the buses for Yerevan (at a symbolic price of 1,500 Euro - about $1,360 Each).

According to Barseghyan, despite those buses are "written-off", however, they are in good condition and before sending them to Yerevan they were given safety inspections and were completely repaired.

The influence of just 10 buses (each has 29 seats, plus room for standing) will not greatly effect the traffic mess of 2,400 minibuses, but Barseghyan says they will at least bring a small "civilized" service.

A contract between Yerevan and Lyon calls for another 30 buses to be brought here by the end of the year.

Barseghyan says that even though the French buses will face the same maintenance crises of the ones they are replacing "we must be happy for getting them, as we haven't gotten buses for approximately 15 years."

He added about 13,000 citizens of Yerevan qualify for free use of State transportation. For them, he said, "this variant is a salvation."


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  Photo of the week
  Blooming Mad
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Blooming Mad

March 8 is always the Day of Women in Armenia. This year, however, it was the Day of Angry Women, as a few thousand took their bouquets into the streets to protest last week's Presidential runoff election.



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