INTRO: Iran’s principal steel city has ambitious plans to develop an urban rail network

CONSTRUCTION is forging ahead on the initial section of the metro network in Esfahan, around 325 km south of the Iranian capital Tehran. Plans for the network were drawn up in the 1990s, and a start has now been made on translating them into reality. Alireza Rogha, Deputy Managing Director, Operation, for the Esfahan Urban Railway Organisation, outlined the state of progress at December’s Mena Rail conference in Dubai.

Esfahan is home to well over 2 million people, and a similar number live in the surrounding area. A rapid increase in the number of private cars in the early 1990s led to serious traffic congestion and pollution, prompting initial studies into an urban rail network.

Sofretu of France (now part of Systra) undertook a prefeasibility study in 1992-95. In 1996 Australian environmental and infrastructure consultant PPK was appointed to carry out a full feasibility study and designate a priority route. The final report was delivered in 1997 to the then Esfahan Regional Metro Co, and preliminary design began in February 1998.

This paved the way for construction to start in June 2001 on the initial 3 km section of the City Priority Line, a 12·5 km north-south route with 15 stations largely following the alignment of Chahrbagh Boulevard. Linking the inter-city bus station at Kaveh to Soffeh in the south, the line will run almost entirely in tunnel, with only 500m above ground. Rogha estimated the total cost of the line at around US$300m.

Civil works on the initial section from Kaveh to Fatemi are nearly finished; this is being built using cut-and-cover methods, with two tracks to be laid in an 8m wide trench (photos).

Work is due to start early in 2004 on the next section to Azadi Square. This will be built using bored construction with two 6m diameter tunnels. Most of the line will run at a depth of 14m to 20m below ground, but a much deeper alignment will be needed for the section where the line passes beneath the River Zayandeh, close to the city’s historic Sio-Se-Pol bridge. Rogha said that the line may run at a depth of 80m. An earth-pressure balance TBM has been bought from Herrenknecht of Germany, and was being prepared for launch inDecember.

A roadheader will be used to excavate the final section from Azadi Square to Soffeh, which will not be finished until 2008-09. Completion of the 4·7 km from Kaveh to the future city centre interchange station at Imam Hossein is anticipated in 2005 and the rest of the route to Soffeh will open in 2007.

The network will be built to 1435mm gauge, and is likely to be electrified at 1·5 kV DC overhead. Consultants have recommended that cars should be designed to accommodate 300 passengers. They would be 23m long by 2650mm wide, with a floor height of 1100mm above rail.

The 20 km second metro route in Esfahan would link Khomeyni Shahr in the west with Zeynabiyeh in the northeast. A preferred alignment has been selected, but detailed studies have yet to be completed.

Also being planned is a 40·5 km suburban route running southwest from the city along the Zayandeh valley to Majlesi which would serve the steelworks at Zobahan and Mobarekeh. With 12 stations, this would have 700m of tunnel and 9·6 km on elevated alignment. A busway would provide a link to the satellite town of Mobarekeh to the east of the route.