Representatives of the Ministry of Transport and the NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System Ltd. have met to discuss the auditing company's report that the opening of the Red Line of the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area light rail will be delayed by several months.
NTA had initially committed to the launch of commercial operations in October 2021. But shortly after Haim Glik was appointed NTA CEO, the opening date was postponed until November 2022. But the company that audits development work on the Red Line warns of a delay of several months, among other things because of finishing work at the stations and the need to thoroughly test the signaling system.
The previous report of the auditors of construction on the Red Line, which was published last year, spoke about a four months delay but NTA thought that it would be able to meet deadlines. Sources familiar with the project believe that commercial operations on the Red Line won't begin until the second or third quarter of 2023. The auditing company declines to discuss dates but agrees that the line won't begin operating in November 2022.
The auditors are currently testing the signaling system, which is one of the important factors determining when the light rail can start operating. Delays in the signaling system would be even harder to reduce than delays in the finishing work at the underground stations, as the line can be operated even if some of the stations are not completed. An NTA source claims that there was no reference to the signaling system in the report, but according to those who are familiar with the project, it does not meet the milestones set in the matter.
20 years of delays
NTA was set up in 1996 and after a feasibility study, planning and budgetary discussions, it was announced that the Red Line would have a budget of NIS 10 billion and open in 2012 as part of a private-public partnership. But after the financing tender was canceled, the government decided to finance the light rail itself. In August 2015 the Ma'ariv bridge in Tel Aviv was demolished and the then Minister of Transport Israel Katz announced October 2021 as the opening date. The budget for the line, which runs from Bat Yam, Yafo, Allenby Street, Azrieli Towers, Tel Aviv Savidor Station and onto Ramat Gan and the Petah Tikva Central Bus Station, was estimated at NIS 16 billion.
Following a dispute among senior management in 2019, which led to the resignation of then CEO Yehuda Bar On, and then the Covid pandemic, new CEO Haim Glik postponed the opening to November 2022. The budget was revised upwards to NIS 18 billion.
There are also already delays on the Green Line and Purple Line, which were due to begin operating in 2026, but work is only now getting underway, after tender winners were recently announced.
The Ministry of Transport said, "The Ministry of Transport is working with NTA and other bodies to progress with the opening of the line on time."
NTA said, "NTA is moving forward on the commercial opening of the Red Line according to the work plan, towards November 2022 as planned, and trial runs are being conducted. The data from the aforementioned auditing company represents only a limited amount of what is being done and does not reflect the overall progress of work on the line as presented on Monday to the Ministry of Transport."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 21, 2022.
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