The Jerusalem Light Rail is to double its capacity. After nearly two years of discussions between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport on the one hand and Jerusalem Light Rail concessionaire CityPass and works contractor Alstom on the other, the sides reached understandings on extension of the Light Rail lines. The works are valued at NIS 3 billion. Of this, CityPass will carry out works to the tune of some NIS 1.5 billion. The work on extending the lines is expected to be complete by early 2020 at the latest.
The dispute was over the extension to the existing Red Line, currently 14 kilometers long. According to the plan, the line is supposed to continue southwards from Mount Herzl to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital and northwards from Pisgat Ze'ev to Neve Yaakov. Two branch lines, known as "the campus lines", are supposed to reach the Hebrew University's Mount Scopus and Givat Ram campuses. The extensions mean laying eight kilometers of track, making the line 22 kilometers in total.
The contract between the parties obliges the state to conduct negotiations first of all with the existing concessionaire. The works include track laying, doubling the number of cars from 46 to 90, and the supply of systems to the project.
Whereas the state was prepared to pay €310 million for the works, Alstom demanded €380 million. After prolonged negotiations, during which Alstom's vice president visited Israel several times, the sides compromised on a payment of €350 million, or NIS 1.5 billion.
Because of the disputes, the state weighed putting the line extensions and branches out to tender, together with the work on the next line, the Green Line. Since two line operators, one for the Red Line and one for the Green Line, would complicate the project (particularly as the lines overlap to a large extent), the state considered adding operation of the existing Red Line to the tender. In other words, had the state and Alston not reached a compromise, the state would have taken the project away from the City Pass consortium and transferred it to another operator.
The Ministry of Finance estimated that putting the project out to a new tender would delay it by at least three years. Under the current timetable, the first new section of track will be ready in two years' time, and the remaining sections by 2020. Apart from the €350 million to be paid to CityPass, the state will pay approximately another €350 million for civil works by other contractors.
CityPass CEO Yaron Ravid said, "Jerusalem Day is nearly upon us, and there can be no better news for the capital city and its residents. Already, 140,000 people travel on the Jerusalem Light Rail daily, and many more will shortly be able to enjoy comfortable, pleasant and fast travel."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 2, 2016
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