Setback for Tel Aviv Light Rail

The Tel Aviv light rail train project faces a setback as plans involving Metro Transport fall through.

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Maayana Miskin, | updated: 13:40

Light rail train, Jerusalem
Light rail train, Jerusalem
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Tel Aviv light rail train project faced a setback Thursday as plans involving the franchise Metro Transportation Solutions (MTS) fell through. Transportation Ministry officials said they would seek another company to construct the rail.

Planners had initially hoped that construction would begin in 2008 and be completed in 2013. The search for a new franchise is expected to cause additional delays.

The Transportation Ministry had cancelled MTS's franchise several days earlier due to a conflict over funding for the light rail project. On Thursday, MTS rejected the ministry's final offer.

Government officials expressed hope that the split with MTS would quicken, not delay, the project's completion. “I am convinced that this decision will put an end to the foot-dragging on the implementation of this important project, and that the state will be able to bring about its implementation via an alternative source as quickly as possible,” said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.

MTS is a consortium made up of major Israeli corporations Africa-Israel and Egged Israel Transport along with foreign corporations. Its split with the government led to mutual accusations, with government officials accusing MTS of taking on the light rail project despite knowing that it could not fulfill its commitment.

The light rail is expected to cost about 10 billion shekels to build. It is to connect Petach Tikva, Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv, Yafo, and Bat Yam.