The long-delayed and controversial Jerusalem Light Railway will make its limited basis debut this Friday. Construction on the railway has taken years longer than planned and the major beneficiaries thus far have been the lawyers for the State of Israel and the concessionaire CityPass.
The lawyers, despite the start of railway operation, can be expected to sue and countersue for the foreseeable future.
The railway is slated to make the journey between Pisgat Zeev in Northern Jerusalem to Mount Herzl in the South in 42 min. When the program was initially conceived the journey was expected to take half an hour.
The project is a BOT project (build operate and transfer). This means that after the concessionaire has operated the railway for number of years and made his profit, he will pass it on to the State of Israel.
The concessionaire is arguing that since the train has not been given priority at traffic intersections, what was originally projected as a half hour journey could stretch into something longer than an hour, thereby discouraging passenger use of the railway.
Another major issue is when to set the completion date and the start of the period that operations should have commenced. The concessionaire is arguing that the state caused unnecessary delays and therefore the clock starts later, while the State disputes this.
For Jerusalem residents and business owners the construction process has been a nightmare, ripping up streets and snarling or outlawing traffic. On Friday residents will get the first inkling of whether the entire process was worth it in terms of reducing traffic congestion in Israel's capital while bringing the customers back to the center of town.