Dozens of new buses gifted to Armenia by the government of China were ceremonially launched in the streets of capital Yerevan on Saturday as part of a broader municipality plan to improve the city’s public transport service.
Some 80 of the 249 buses imported from China began to service six of Yerevan’s routes, charging no fare from passengers for just one day. City officials say the rest of the buses will gradually be put into operation as Yerevan’s new public transportation network is introduced to phase out minibuses that now remain the most common means of public conveyance in the city with a population of about one million people.
The new buses are designed to carry 45 passengers, including 22 seated riders. Yerevan authorities plan to adjust at least 25 of the buses to the needs of wheelchair users by the end of the year.
Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian and Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian attend the launching of new Chinese buses in Yerevan's Republic Square, 24Mar2012
Among the first passengers who took a ride on one of the new buses from the city’s central Republic Square were also Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian.
Markarian told media that the new public transportation network for Yerevan will be approved soon, while an additional 350 buses will have been imported to the city by the end of the year after negotiations with private sector companies and relevant tenders.
The mayor did not exclude that the new buses could later switch to liquefied petroleum gas, considering the rising cost of diesel fuel. He also acknowledged some difficulties that the municipality currently faces in filling the new driving job vacancies. “Since our concept is about reducing the number of minibuses, in hiring for driving jobs we will be giving a priority to the [redundant] minibus drivers,” Markarian explained.
The mayor said the normal monthly salaries of drivers operating the new buses will hover around 70,000-80,000 drams (some $180-$205). The drivers, he said, will also have some ‘incentives’ to make sure they provide good customer service.