Tel Aviv light rail set to launch in May

Tel Aviv light rail credit: Shutterstock
Tel Aviv light rail credit: Shutterstock

"Globes" explains what you need to know about the Red Line - fares, frequencies, routes and when the other lines are due to begin operating.

After countless delays, it finally looks as though the Tel Aviv light rail Red Line will begin services at the end of May. Ahead of the launch, "Globes" explains everything you want to know about the Red Line - fares, frequencies, routes and when the other lines will begin operating.

Red Line

The Red Line, the first line of the Tel Aviv light rail will run from the Petah Tikva central bus station via Beilinson Hospital and Jabotinsky Street in Bnei Brak and Ramat Gan to Tel Aviv Central railway station (Savidor) and then via Azrieli Center and Derekh Begin westwards beneath the Tel Aviv railway park and southwards along Jerusalem Boulevard in Jaffa and terminating in southern Bat Yam.

The Red Line is 24 kilometers long with 12 kilometers underground from the Geha Interchange to just north of Jaffa. There are 34 stations along with line and 234,000 passengers are expected to use the service each day.

What is the difference between the light rail and a metro

In most places in the world Metro systems are underground and light rail systems are above ground. The Red Line is a hybrid system that combines above ground and underground sections. Nevertheless, there are still significant differences between the light rail and metro systems, which are almost entirely underground and move at a higher speed of 40 kilometers per hour compared with the 20 kilometers per hour of the light rail. Metro systems can also carry many more passengers - 40,000 per hour compared with 7,500 per hour for the light rail. Forecasts are that without the future planned Tel Aviv Metropolitan Metro, the light rail lines currently under construction would collapse in terms of providing service by 2040, when the Red Line would reach 150% capacity, the Green Line would reach 170% capacity and the Purple Line would reach 250% capacity.

The Tel Aviv Metropolitan Metro will open gradually from 2034, according to promises, and all three lines will be fully operational in 2037.

What routes will operate on the Red Line and what will be the frequency?

There will be three separate services on the Red Line: R1 from Petah Tikva to Bat Yam (the full line); R2 from Kiryat Arye to Bat Yam, which won't operate when the line begins; and R3 from Kiryat Arye to Elifelet. In other words passengers wanting to travel from Kiryat Arye to Bat Yam will have to change trains.

On the R1 service between Petah Tikva and Bat Yam there will be six trains in each direction every hour and on R3 from Kiryat Arye to Elifelet four trains each hour, for a total of 10 trains each hour. The average frequency along the Red Line will be a train every six minutes in each direction. On NTA's website it says that the Red Line will have a train in each direction every three minutes, with 18-20 trains every hour.

In March, NTA Metropolitan Mass Transport System, the government company in charge of the Tel Aviv light rail, received approval to inaugurate 45 days of trial runs before final approval is given to operate the line next month. However, if any major defects or problems are found during the trials, it is possible that the launch of operations will be postponed beyond May.

Will the light rail will be given priority at traffic lights?

The Tel Aviv light rail will be given priority at 70% of the traffic lights on its route. This will create greater congestion for cars but the tens of thousands of passengers using the light rail will reach their destinations more quickly.

Will the light rail be free at first

When the Jerusalem light rail began operating in 2011, it was free for several months. But in Tel Aviv it has been decided that there will be no free run-in. Fare on the light rail will be the same as on city buses - NIS 5.5 for shorter journeys and NIS 12 to travel the entire line.

Will it be possible to board the light rail with bicycles or pets?

Folding bicycles and scooters will be allowed on the light rail as well as guide dogs and pets small enough to sit on the passenger's lap.

How significant is the light rail Red Line?

Although the Red Line will serve tens of thousands of residents and travelers who come to Greater Tel Aviv, it does not constitute a revolution. In fact, it is a means of mass transport that is being launched decades late in relation to demand and population increase, which will, according to estimates, make Israel to the most densely populated country in the Western world. The line itself is expected to be crowded with passengers from day one and it will provide an alternative even for those currently using a car, although it is not expected to reduce traffic jams.

According to estimates, there will only be relief in Greater Tel Aviv in a few years when all the lines will be operating, more preferential bus routes are running and when the work on the fourth railway line along the Ayalon will be completed, all of which will ease congestion in the city.

How much did the Tel Aviv light rail cost to build?

This is the most expensive infrastructure project ever undertaken in Israel. The cost of building the Red Line now stands at NIS 18.7 billion, far above the original plan. When its establishment was approved in 2010, the estimate was NIS 10.7 billion, and by the start of construction it had risen to NIS 16.7 billion.

The State Comptroller's report last November said that the project is within the cost range of similar projects in the world, and had amounted to 77% of the maximum cost of projects of its type. Part of the increase in the estimate is due to the delays in the line and the consequent demands by contractors for compensation.

How many years of delays has the project undergone?

The project was approved by the government in 2000. A concession agreement for its establishment was signed in 2007, but was canceled two years later due to difficulties in obtaining financing by the consortium that had won the tender because of the global financial crisis.

With government financing, work only began in 2015 with the demolition of Maariv Bridge. Since then NTA has postponed the opening date from the end of October 2021 by 13 months to November 2022. Then it announced that it would start operating in the first quarter of 2023 and then in March. Later it committed that it would operate the Red Line on Independence Day (April 26) and now the planned launch date is the end of May.

What other lines will be operated and in what stage of construction are they?

Two other lines are under construction. The Purple Line will run from the eastern part of the Tel Aviv Metropolitan area (Yehud-Monoson, Or Yehuda and Givat Shmuel) via Ramat Gan and Givatayim to Central Tel Aviv, with 46 stations on the 27 kilometer line, entirely above ground. The line is due to open in 2027 and work is underway along the route.

The Green Line will run from Holon and Rishon LeZion in the south to Herzliya in the north via Tel Aviv. The 39 kilometer line will have 62 stations and will include a 4.5 kilometer underground section in Tel Aviv. Underground work is current underway between Har Zion Boulevard and Ibn Gbriol-Nordau Streets in Tel Aviv, and the line is scheduled to be operational in 2028.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on April 13, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

Tel Aviv light rail credit: Shutterstock
Tel Aviv light rail credit: Shutterstock
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