train old 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The construction of a high-speed railway link between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv which will cut travel time to less than half an hour has been essentially suspended and at least seven years is needed to complete the work, Israel Railways said Monday.
The $750 million route, which originally was supposed to start running last year, will not be ready before 2016 at the earliest, Israel Railways spokesman Shahar Wiesman said.
He said that the project is currently being held up over a dispute with environmental groups over a valley in the hills on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where a 150-meter bridge is supposed to be constructed for the train line.
"The inauguration of the fast rail line to Jerusalem will take between six and seven years to complete from the day that work begins after all the statutory permits are received," Israel Railways said in a written press release.
The release said that ballooning costs as a result of environmental group demands were endangering the whole project.
Environmental groups on Monday rejected as baseless lies the charges that they were the cause of the delays.
"The only thing that Israel Railways has succeeded in doing in this project is to lie," said Shaked Avraham, a senior official with the Society for the Protection of Nature who has been involved in the negotiations. "They cannot transfer their disgrace to green groups."
Last month, a government watchdog report found that serious lapses in the planning and budgeting of the project essentially stopped work on the line.
The report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss cited repeated construction delays stemming from poor planning and incorrect budgeting of the mega-project.
When it is completed, the express train, which will make stops in Modi'in and at Ben-Gurion International Airport, will be the fastest method of transportation between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
To date, the line has only been completed between Tel Aviv and Modi'in, about half way to Jerusalem.
Train service between the two cities was renewed in 2005, after nearly seven years when no trains ran at all to and from the capital due to poor track conditions and repeated derailments.
The current scenic but slow train ride between the two cities takes nearly an hour and a half.
In contrast, bus service between the two cities during non-rush hour periods is about an hour, although the ride can be more than double that during rush-hour or all too frequent traffic jams.