Tel Aviv Light Rail to be Delayed 6 Years

Plans for Tel Aviv’s Light Rail have been put back on the shelf for another six years, beyond the original target date of 2017.

Chana Ya'ar ,

Light rail
Light rail
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Plans for Tel Aviv’s new Light Rail system, to consist of two lines and include subway tunnels, have been put back on the shelf for another six years, beyond the original target date of 2017.

In an internal report sent to the Finance Ministry, the Dutch auditor for the project, Aegis predicted the Red Line of the new system would not make its first run before 2023, according to Globes business news service. The Green Line of the system, which was to launch in 2020 is allegedly still "on track."

Contributing to the delays are cost overruns totaling up to NIS 3 billion, delays in the project’s timetable, and ongoing staff relations issues plaguing NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System Ltd. General Manager Itzhak Zuchman.

The project, which originally was a “build-operate-transfer” (BOT) system held by a consortium led by Africa-Israel Investments Ltd., was nationalized in December 2010 due to financing problems.

But the government-set budget of NIS 10.7 billion has already been surpassed, and currently stands at an estimated NIS 14 billion, according to NTA, the government firm responsible for the system’s infrastructure work.

Other than a NIS 600 million rise due to the rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), there appears to be an inexplicable gap in expenses of some NIS 3.3 billion. When asked for comment, neither the Finance Ministry nor NTA was able to explain why there was a gap in the cost of the project, nor why the timetable was suddenly delayed.

“The issue of the Dan Region light railway’s timetable are still the subject of discussions between NTA, which is responsible for the project, and the auditor,” NTA said in a statement.

The ministry altogether sidestepped questions, referring media back to the company. “In line with the government decision, NTA is authorized to build the Tel Aviv light rail project,” the ministry told Globes in a statement. “The company is therefore moving forward on the planning of the Red Line, and recently submitted the planning concept in which NTA will carry out the detailed planning. This concept was reviewed by an auditor on behalf of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport, which recommended it. The communications procedures are not the responsibilibity of NTA by law.”