President Ilham Aliyev receives chairman of Board of Baku Transport Agency (PHOTO/VIDEO)

President Ilham Aliyev receives chairman of Board of Baku Transport Agency (PHOTO/VIDEO)

Details added (first version posted at 17:28 on Feb. 18).

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Feb. 18

Trend:

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received Chairman of the Board of Baku Transport Agency Vusal Karimli.

Touching upon the work done in relation to city transport in recent years, President Ilham Aliyev said:

- The Baku Transport Agency completed last year with good results. I personally examined part of the work done. I believe that last year was a successful one for the agency. However, we cannot be complacent with the successes achieved because a lot still remains to be done.

Hundreds of new buses were delivered to our city over the past five years. All of them are produced by leading companies of the world. This is our conscious choice because the most modern technologies should be applied in Baku. This includes as a key condition the compliance of the transport vehicles with the highest international standards. I should also note that the first foreign buses delivered to Baku five years ago had not even been launched in the countries of their origin. In other words, the most modern buses are being delivered. Of course, this is a very important step aimed at significantly improving the city transport. On my instructions, fairly large funds are allocated from the state budget every year and 300 buses are imported through the Baku Transport Agency on average on an annual basis. Thus, we are gradually upgrading the bus fleet. At the same time, I recommend that private companies also look at their bus fleet again. I see that some companies are taking important steps in this direction.

The importation of buses into our country is a part of our work, of course. The entire transport infrastructure must meet modern requirements, and comprehensive measures are being taken in this direction. Azerbaijan ranks 27th in the world in terms of the road infrastructure. This is reflected in the report of the Davos Forum.

Other measures related to city transport are and will continue to be taken. I would like to hear what you mainly focused on last year. How many new buses will be delivered this year and what innovations will happen in public transport?

Chairman of the Board of the Baku Transport Agency Vusal Karimli said:

- Thank you very much, Mr. President. Last year, 2,200 buses operating in the city of Baku transported 801 million passengers. The total number of carriers dropped from 65 to 37. In other words, there were people who had two buses at their disposal and also wanted to work. It is clear that they worked purely for their own interests, not for the convenience of people. Based on certain requirements, we reduced their number from 65 to 37. In total, 855 buses were replaced over five years. Of these, 600 were delivered from foreign countries on your instructions. Based on the requirements of the Baku Transport Agency, carriers delivered 295 modern buses. In general, to date, the bus fleet has been updated by almost 40 percent. On your instruction, by delivering 300 buses every year, we plan to completely renew the fleet in the next three years.

At the same time, I would like to inform you that the new buses we have delivered operate on compressed natural gas (CNG), which causes less harm to the environment. Only a few buses operate on CNG in a number of major cities around the world. For example, in Vienna there are no buses operating on CNG at all. A pilot project in this direction has begun in Berlin. In Moscow, out of 6,475 buses, 319 operate on CNG, and in Istanbul only 239 out of 3,070. In Baku, out of 2,200 buses 600 operate on CNG. Carriers have also been instructed to bring CNG buses because those operating on petrol and diesel travel in the city at medium speeds, thus causing more environmental damage.

Another innovation this year will be the establishment of bus hubs in various places. You gave this instruction at the opening of the Koroglu hub in September last year.

One of the main problems associated with bus drivers is that carriers do not exercise rigorous control over their training and working hours. We are working on this issue. For this purpose, a driver training center has been set up and you attended its opening ceremony. To date, more than 2,800 bus drivers have been trained at the center.

A great deal of work has been done on the road infrastructure. In order to prevent buses, ambulances and fire engines from getting stuck in traffic jams, as well as to ensure their continuous movement on roads, special lanes have been allocated. At the same time, new requirements for taxi services were introduced in 2018. They reflect what types of taxis should function in the city and the airport, as well as their tariffs. Mr. President, in the first half of this year we will ensure that payments on buses are made using cards. This, as you instructed, will contribute to the elimination of the shadow economy and informal working hours, prevent drivers from working beyond eight hours and ensure transparency in public transport.

In general, our main goal is to ensure that passengers reach their destination in less time, comfortably and safely. To do this, not only the Baku Transport Agency but also the public must be active because whereas one person rides a private vehicle, up to 70-80 passengers are transported by a bus. The illegal parking by this one person creates difficulties for the movement of the bus. People have recently expressed some dissatisfaction with the fines associated with parking. But Baku is a capital city, and as is the case in the capital cities of all countries, people also cannot park their cars wherever they want because the main thing is public transport. During the day, we carry 2.2 million passengers. Residents mainly use public transport. Therefore, on your instruction, we are trying to provide comfort to the passengers using public transport.

President Ilham Aliyev: Of course, the upgrade of the city transport is an important issue for any major city. I am glad that the work done in the city of Baku in recent years is comprehensive and covers all areas related to transport. It is very good that there is coordination among all types of transport now. I believe that at the next stage, taxi, metro and bus services should be more closely connected with each other. The main thing is to reduce traffic jams. Of course, we cannot limit ourselves only to building new roads and interchanges. However, if major road infrastructure projects had not been implemented in Baku over the past 10-15 years, the city transport would be unable to move due to traffic jams now. This is true. We simply need to remember the picture of 10 years ago, so that everyone sees and knows this. It is possible to say that our main transport arteries were completely gridlocked. Although the main road connecting the city with the airport was considered a four-lane, it was actually two-lane. There were several roundabouts along this road. Today there is not a single roundabout there, so there is every opportunity for a very convenient travel from the airport to the city. And not only that. The construction of another road to the airport is also of great importance. There was no road from Zykh to the airport at all. At that time, we took the initiative and did this, which solved many issues. At the same time, I can say that the work done in the city of Baku in recent years, the bridges and road junctions built probably have no equal.

However, along with this, the number of vehicles is increasing. This is evidence of the improved standard of living of our population. There are statistics: the number of vehicles annually imported into our country and currently produced in Azerbaijan is increasing. Our population is growing, and so is the population of the city of Baku. Therefore, our city transport should develop in accordance with this growth and be consistent with it. So from now on, the construction of the metro, new interchanges, the completion of the Baku ring railway and the efficient operation of buses – all these transport segments should work as a single mechanism. The main thing is to reduce the time people spend on the road.

However, perhaps a more important issue is the issue of safety, driver training, their medical examination and work schedule. I recently said that no-one should work more than eight hours a day. If anyone forces people to work illegally, exploits them, they will be punished. Of course, I am sure that the drivers working at the Baku Transport Agency adhere to these criteria. Another important issue is people’s comfort. On modern buses, people feel very comfortable. In principle, buses should be operated in such a way that even people with personal vehicles would prefer traveling by public transport. I believe that we are approaching this goal. Of course, additional measures will be taken to update the bus fleet in the coming years. At the same time, I am glad that the new buses that are currently being imported into our country are very clean from an environmental point of view, because it is no secret that it is vehicles that pollute the atmosphere the most – not industrial enterprises or retail facilities, there are statistics of that – but transport vehicles. Therefore, great progress in this area will be achieved by the supply of Euro-5 gasoline to the market. It will be produced in Azerbaijan in two years. At the same time, it is necessary to deliver buses operating on compressed gas and electricity to our country and to create appropriate infrastructure for this. Additional steps must be taken in this direction.

I want to ask you: bus service in the central part of the city is now quite effective, but what is the situation like in the suburban settlements? Are there any problems in the settlements related to bus transport? If so, what should be done to resolve them?

Vusal Karimli: Mr. President, the construction of houses in the immediate vicinity of roads in the settlements has recently created certain difficulties for the road infrastructure. After September this year, we will gradually provide settlements with buses in accordance with the size of the roads and the degree of turns because 12-meter buses sometimes can’t move on suburban roads. Of the 415 buses that will be purchased this year on your instruction, 115 have already been ordered and 300 will be put up for tender. There we have also provided 8- and 9-meter buses, which are safer for traffic on roads adjacent to the settlements and for intra-settlement roads. At the same time, there is an expectation that in March this year, carriers will also deliver about 50 buses. These buses are to be launched in the direction of settlements. We are developing road infrastructure projects for suburban settlements in cooperation with the State Agency for Automobile Roads. Work in this direction will also be completed.

In settlements, we mainly want to establish small hubs. We want to set up these small hubs, as you noted, around the ring railway so that they communicate with each other. Arriving at a hub, people will be able to reach the city both by rail and by bus.

President Ilham Aliyev: That's right. You also mentioned parking. We must have a fair approach here as well. There should be parking facilities so that we could require people to comply with these rules. Therefore, drivers sometimes flagrantly violate these rules. Leaving their cars in the wrong place where parking facilities are available, they create obstacles for pedestrians, as well as problems for transport. But there should be ample opportunities, i.e. parking places, so that we could require drivers to use them. There should be no violations of law here. Everyone is equal before law. Everyone should know that the city transport is about people’s comfort, our health and clean air. Let me say again that the atmosphere is polluted by vehicles most of all, especially if there are traffic jams. The absence of traffic jams should be your primary goal. You should continue to be active along with relevant government agencies. Therefore, I want to ask you about parking. What is the situation like now and what is expected this year?

Vusal Karimli: This year, we attracted international consulting services in connection with parking in order to analyze the issue of parking in the city of Baku not only in terms of infrastructure but also in broad economic terms. Because the city must be divided into zones. There is night time. It is necessary to analyze which roads are free when there are traffic jams in the city and decide where, how many and which parking lots need to be built – underground, street or modular, especially near malls and in the main places of people's residence, and to determine their rates. In the city center, rates should be different. Zone "B" must have a different tariff. In this regard, based on the results of the first half of the year, together with other relevant agencies, we will prepare and submit to you a joint report on the results of the work done.

President Ilham Aliyev: Good! A lot remains to be done this year. I am sure that at the end of the year we will see more developed city transport. Let me say again that this is necessary for public health, safety and people’s comfort. I should also note that the buses purchased by the state are worth a large amount and, of course, will pay off in a commercial sense in 10 or 20 years perhaps. We are doing this for people to be able to use public transport, buses in safe and comfortable conditions.

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