Tel Aviv Metro has already cost NIS 500m

Miri Regev

As Minister of Transport Miri Regev mulls cancelling Israel's biggest and costliest ever project, "Globes" examines what work has already been done.

Last month Minister of Transport Miri Regev shocked many people when she told the "Globes" Real Estate Conference that she was opposed to the Greater Tel Aviv Metro - Israel's largest and most expensive ever infrastructure project. "If this plan is ever put before for implementation," she said, "I will oppose it." She added that the reason was the money it cost and that she intended diverting the Metro's huge budget for connecting up Israel's outlying regions to the railway network.

Those who were especially surprised were the hundreds of people working on planning this grandiose project, some of whom have been employed on it for five years. In addition to her exceptional remarks, Regev also provided a tranquilizer shot when she said that the time for decisions had not yet been reached. "We will deposit the plan," she continued, "When we need to realize it I will weight it up with the cabinet." Thus she kept open for herself all options. If the cabinet wants to carry on promoting the project, it will move forward as planned, if they don't want it they can cancel it.

Following Regev's declaration, "Globes" has investigated what would be the financial significance of the possible cancellation of the project. In other words: how much has been spent from public coffers so far, and how much more will be spent before the cabinet will make a final decision. The total comes to about NIS 500 million, some of which has already been spent.

"The Metro should be seen as an emergency plan"

In 2016, the strategic plan for developing public transport in the Tel Aviv Metropolitan region was published. The main conclusion of the research was that the existing plan provides good access for short journeys in the central belt but falls short in metropolitan access for the entire urban area, as is the norm for metropolitan public transport networks in developed countries. This was the starting point for Israel's largest public transport infrastructure project, which would connect 20 municipal authorities in central Israel with 150 kilometers of underground railway lines.

In 2018, the international consultancy firm McKinsey submitted their report to the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport examining the construction of the project and its costs. As part of the report, the company's consultants estimated that the business sector would need to share in the project. This was also the first time that the enormous figure of NIS 150 billion was mentioned as a possible price tag for the project. In February 2019, the then Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, when the planning stage of the first three Metro lines was completed, said, "It's impossible to see this even as a regular event. If the next government does not put this into the Economic Arrangements Law, as an emergency plan, then it won't happen."

The NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System Ltd. and the Planning Administration, who are responsible for pushing the plan forward, have hired hundreds of professionals including architects, agronomists, transport consultants, electrical consultants and more. As part of the project, it was decided to build three different Metro lines with architects appointed to head teams planning each of them: Dana Kehat Grossberger from the Mansfeld Kehat architects firm (M1); Eliezer Armon (M2); and Edna Lerman (M3).

And there is more. The project will also influence the above ground environment as part of TAMA 70, a program for real estate arrangements along the Metro lines (stations, building percentages etc.). The core team of urban planners and architects, and environmental consultants for TAMA 70 is headed by Dorit Spinat of Gordon Architects and Yahel Engineers project managers.

Most of the work so far is hidden from the public eye and was only recently revealed when the plans were deposited for objections. All the work done to date has cost, according to figures from NTA and the Ministry of Finance, NIS 500 million. NIS 200 million has been paid for planning various sections of the line. Planning 109 stations is costing NIS 100 million, while an additional NIS 100 million is being paid for planning the regional depot including surveys and measurements, and professional consultation for the various systems that will support the project. NIS 50 million is being spent on drilling and NIS 50 million on planning the TAMA 70 regulations.

Although the Metro plan has already been deposited for objections, it will take some time to consider all the objections, so Regev does not have to decide for a while, during which time more money can be spent on the planning.

Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri said, "The Metro is the most major transport and urban project in the history of the country. As part of the project major resources have been invested in planning. The Ministry of Interior sees importance in progressing swiftly with the plan and its realization."

The Ministry of Transport said, "The policy of the Minister of Transport is to connect up Israel with an emphasis on linking up outlying regions. Due to the state's investment in the Gush Dan Metropolitan region, the Minister of Transport thinks that it should be reconsidered with national projects preferred like linking Kiryat Shmona and Eilat to the railway network via the eastern line."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 23, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

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