The new date in late September for the start of operations on the Tel Aviv - Jerusalem fast rail link is also unrealistic, railway experts have told "Globes." The latest assessment comes after Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz announced yesterday that the new railway, which had been scheduled to start operations on March 30, would now begin running on September 23, the eve of the Sukkot holiday.
However, experts familiar with the project say that it will not be possible to start operating the Tel Aviv - Jerusalem railway line, even partially, before the end of the year, and that full operations, with trains in each direction every 15 minutes through from Jerusalem to Herzliya, will not be possible before mid-2019.
"Globes" has also found that work to electrify four other Israel Railways lines, which should have already been in advanced stages, has not even begun.
Last week Katz told a Knesset committee that he wanted full operation of the Jerusalem line to Herzliya by mid-September. This week he is talking about partially operating the line to Tel Aviv's Hashalom station by the end of September. A transport expert has told "Globes" that Katz's "previous remarks about operating the line to Herzliya show he is completely out of the picture. It is only possible to work on the section of railway along the Ayalon for four hours a day, when no trains are running. Electrifying the tracks from Hagana Station to Herzliya is a project that will take six months for a professional and efficient company or a year for the company working for Israel Railways."
In its postponement notification last month, Israel Railways attributed the sixth month delay in commencing operation of the Tel Aviv - Jerusalem line from March to September to the safety requirements of the police and fire and rescue services. Similarly, Katz in his two Knesset committee appearances repeated that it was only safety requirements that were preventing the line from operating.
However, information received by "Globes" indicates that the main reason for the postponement is that the project is very far from complete from an engineering point of view regardless of the demands by the police and fire and rescue services.
For example, putting up the electrification gantries is far from complete and communications and signals systems have yet to be installed in the main tunnels. The series of trial runs by the trains will only be completed in mid-September. In addition, because this will be the first-ever electrification railway project in the country, special approval must be obtained from the Independent Safety Assessor (ISA) - a process that will take between six months to a year because some of the checks can only begin after construction has been completed.
Professional sources involved in the project estimate that electrification of the line will only be completed in September - meaning that commencing operation will again be postponed until the end of 2018 or early 2019. The ISA's approval is required for commercial operations with passengers and the checks can only start after all the electrification work is complete. Another problem is that the main construction contractor, Spain's Semi, has so far performed poorly and according to one senior engineer the company has struggled to meet deadlines.
There have also been problems in the rush to finish the work. In the past few days there was a mishap in putting up the electrification gantries on Bridge 10 outside Jerusalem, which halted work on the line.
Israel Railways said in response, "The electrification project is due to be completed between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv's Haganah station on one line in the coming weeks and several weeks after that the second line will also be completed. At the same time, the required safety approvals will also be completed including ISA. There is a full and ongoing dialogue with the planning bodies and the construction contractor. The other electric railway lines will be built in the coming years."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 6, 2018
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