After many delays, work is finally about to begin at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on the Green Line of the light rail. "Globes" has found that the start of operations of the Green Line has been put back another nine months until 2028.
The main reason for this latest delay has been various disputes between Israeli telecom and infrastructure companies and the contractor China State Construction Engineering Corp. (CSCEC). In the first stage all the relevant infrastructures including water, sewage, telecom lines, electricity, gas and more need to be moved prior to construction of the actual line. Sources have told "Globes" that companies like Bezeq, Partner and the Israel Electric Corp. have been raising difficulties over CSCEC's attempts to move infrastructure lines. Others say that government company NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System Ltd., which is managing the light rail project, is not making enough effort to solve these problems.
There are three Tel Aviv Metropolitan Light Rail project currently under construction. According to NTA the Red Line from Petah Tikva to Bat Yam via Tel Aviv is almost complete will open in November 2022, although sources say this is likely to be delayed by several weeks or months. The Green Line between Herzliya and Holon will open in mid-2027 and the Purple Line from Yehud and Kiryat Ono to Tel Aviv will open at the end of 2026.
The complexities facing CSCEC on the Green Line include over seven kilometers of tunnels. The contractor began working in November 2019 and was expected to complete its work in April 2024 (three years before the line opened). Any delay in the timetable set by NTA could lead to penalties of NIS 30,000 per day and CSCEC could make counter-claims against companies it considers caused the delays.
Completion by CSCEC has already been officially postponed until July 2024 and due to claims of foot dragging by the infrastructure companies, it is anticipated that the work won't be completed until six months after that date.
For example, in the area around Kikar Rabin station, CSCEC is in dispute with Partner, which is using Bezeq's infrastructure in nearby Malkei Yisrael Street. In order to move infrastructures, Partner has demanded that special infrastructures be built for them along the street. One engineer involved in the dispute said, "These are companies with infrastructures that are operating and suddenly they are asking them to destroy everything and rebuild. It's only logical that they will have demands."
In another problem on Nordau Street, CSCEC has been hit by protracted delays from the Israel Electric Corp. (IEC). "Globes" found that even after IEC arranged financial matters and plans for financing moving the high-tension infrastructure lines, a new obstacle arose. IEC's Dan Region planning department expressed reservations about the plan. This caused many more months of delay. And Bezeq has also reportedly been causing problems. Although they have agreed to move lines, they have set long deadlines of six months for each section of work.
NTA said, "The company is working so that the Green Line will begin commercial operations on the date set - 2027, without delays and target that binds all the different contractors. The project of building the light rail in the heart of crowded cities (partly underground), is challenging and subject to complicated coordination and synchronization. The major difficulty of bringing together all the organizations on the project has already been discussed by the legislator of the Metro Law."
The Ministry of Transport said, "The Ministry knows of no delay that has been approved by the tunneling works contractor of the Green Line. NTA is committed to meet the timetable that was approved and set for 2027."
IEC said, "At no stage of the process has there been or arisen a new obstacle or reservation. The original plan that was agreed between IEC and NTA is the only plan passed and approved and no change in it has been carried out."
Bezeq said, "The enterprise involves changing the route of hundreds of fiber optic cables deployed along the planned line. The matter is subject to a great deal of coordination with Bezeq's customers, including in the financial and defense sectors, and coordinating with them is especially complicated. Despite all this Bezeq is doing everything within its power to assist the enterprise."
Partner said, "The company is working in full cooperation with organizations and authorities in order to bring fiber optic cables as quickly as possible to every household and business in Israel."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 7, 2021
Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2021