After a saga of delays the Tel Aviv light rail Red Line will finally begin running next week on August 18 after the German inspection company issued the safety certificate needed for commercial operations. "Globes" explains what passengers in the Tel Aviv metropolitan region can expect.
What is the Red Line?
The Tel Aviv light rail Red Line will form the transport spine of the region and will pass through major areas of demand.
The line extends over 24 kilometers from Petah Tikva to Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak, and Tel Aviv to Bat Yam, and 34 stations. The line is expected to carry 234,000 passengers daily. 12 kilometers of the line from Schenker Station in Petah Tikva near the Geha Interchange to Elifelet in Tel Aviv near the railway park, will be underground.
This has been Israel's most expensive infrastructure project to date. Building the line has cost more than NIS 18.7 billion well above the estimated NIS 10.7 billion when construction was approved in 2010 and the NIS 16.7 billion when construction finally began.
Some of the rise in the estimated cost was due to the delays in construction and demands by contractors for compensation and some by the rise in the cost of living and interest payments. In November 2022, the State Comptroller's report noted that the project cost was in the higher range of comparable projects overseas.
In the Tel Aviv Metropolitan region work is currently underway on the Purple and Green Lines, which are due to open in 2027 and 2028 respectively. In addition, in the coming years, work is scheduled to begin on the Metro, which is meant to be a transport game changer in the region.
Which lines will operate and with what frequency?
Three lines will operate on the Red Line. R1 from Petah Tikva to Bat Yam (the full line). R2 from Kiryat Arie to Bat Yam, which will not run when the line begins operations next week. And R3 from Kiryat Arie to Elifelet.
Six trains an hour will operate in each direction on R1 from next week and four trains an hour in each direction on R3. In other words, there will be a train every six minutes in the underground section, which will be the busiest.
It will take an estimated 80 minutes from one end of the line to the other, at first, although over time the speed is expected to improve. In the underground section of the Red Line the speed will be relatively high, taking about 25 minutes from end to end. So a passenger boarding at Elifelet station in South Tel Aviv will take just 10 minutes to reach Savidor Tel Aviv central station.
On the other hand, in the above ground sections of the line and especially in Bat Yam, journeys will be longer because the train only gets 70% preference at the traffic lights there. The speed also depends on what is happening on the ground, where a car drivers and scooter riders can impede and block trains..
In any case, according to forecasts, most passengers will travel mainly in the underground section where they will enjoy fast service. But in Bat Yam and Jaffa, especially at first, until all road users get used to it, the train is expected to travel slowly.
How much will rides cost?
At the start of operations a single fare will be NIS 5.50, although the fare will be higher when traveling the 24 kilometers from end to end and according to distance. Payment by app will be possible at stations and on trains but payment by Rav-Kav cards will only be possible at stations because readers have not been installed on the trains. As part of the transport fare reforms being promoted by Minister of Transport Miri Regev, fares on the light rail in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are due to rise to NIS 8.
However, monthly tickets will be 50% cheaper for socioeconomic clusters 1-5, which include Bnei Brak and Bat Yam.
Will there be teething problems?
Almost certainly yes. Every major infrastructure project has its problems. Doors will remain open for longer at first to allow for many passengers wanting boarding the train and even these few extra seconds causes a slowdown.
Since a safety distance is required between the trains, each delayed departure by one train rolls on to the next. Public services will probably not yet be operated in the underground stations. The original plans did not include the services and the Tel Aviv Municipality insisted on adding them, but the NTA and the Ministry of Finance have not yet come to an agreement on the few millions needed for their maintenance.
The line is expected to open busier than planned. If initially it was thought that an average of 440 passengers would travel on each train, now the expectation is that the demand will reach about 600-700 passengers per train.
Will the light rail improve road safety?
Yes. International agencies dealing with the issue have recommended that the shift to public transport is an effective tool in the campaign against road accidents. However, in the first stage, there may be accidents as car drivers get used to the new traffic arrangements.
Will the underground section of the line have cellular reception?
According to NTA's promises, there will be cellular reception at the underground stations. Folding scooters and bicycles will be allowed on the carriages. Service dogs will be allowed on the trains for free as well as smaller dogs that can be held on the passengers' lap.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 8, 2023.
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