Ever since the mid-1990s, the system has been dominated by minibuses belonging to private companies. Few of them have invested in their fleet of aging vehicles in the past decade. The minibuses as well as a smaller number of buses provided by the municipal authorities have become even more overcrowded as a result.
A British transport consultancy, WYG, was contracted by Yerevan’s former municipal administration in 2016 to propose a detailed plan to change the transport network. Then Mayor Taron Markarian essentially accepted the proposals in 2017, pledging to replace the battered minibuses with new and larger buses by the end of 2018.
Markarian was forced to resign in July 2018 two months after the “Velvet Revolution” that brought down Armenia’s former government. Marutian, his successor allied to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, pledged to address the problem after taking office in October 2018.
Marutian’s office asked Pashinian’s government last year to raise more than $100 million to buy 820 modern buses which it said would end the Armenian capital’s transport woes. In a related development, it called in April this year an international tender for the purchase of 100 new and large buses. The tender was not completed for still unclear reasons.
The municipal administration announced in July it will buy instead 100 small buses and hold another tender for that purpose. The international tender was formally launched on Monday.
Davit Khazhakian, an opposition member of the city council, claimed that municipality is planning to buy more minibuses, rather than regular size buses repeatedly promised by Marutian. He said the bidding specifications are such that the tender will inevitably be won by the Russian company GAZ whose GAZelle minibuses form the backbone of Yerevan’s public transport network.
“The authorities have told the public for the last couple of years that they will buy new buses and create a new network,” Khazhakian told a news conference. “But they are going to commission more GAZelles.”
Deputy Mayor Hrachya Sargsian did not deny that the municipality wants to continue to at least partly rely on minibuses. He insisted, however, that the outcome of the tender is not a forgone conclusion and that Western carmakers could also win it.
Sargsian also told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the municipality has not abandoned its plans to purchases hundreds of new buses. But he could not say when the Armenian capital will have a new and modern transport system.
Marutian said last year that nearly half of some 900 minibuses catering to commuters in Yerevan are too old and must be decommissioned.