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Jerusalem's long-awaited light rail project has been set back nearly six months behind schedule due to construction blunders and a shortage of workers, officials said Sunday.
They confirmed that about 100 meters of tracks installed incorrectly on a main thoroughfare near the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery had to be ripped out and redone.
The first line in the city's light rail system was expected to be running in 2009, but is already five months late due to insufficient manpower on the ground by the private conglomerate, City-Pass, which is charged with the work, the officials said.
The NIS 3.2 billion project is the first of its kind in Israel.
City-Pass spokesman Itsho Gur attributed the delays in the work both to its novelty in Israel and that the procedure to attain permits in each stage was "complicated."
"We are negotiating with the State of Israel on the issue, and to set a new date for the light rail's operation," he said.
Gur said a routine inspection of the track - in an area where, much to the duress of neighborhood residents, work has been under way for more than a year - revealed certain problems with the tracking that were "liable to hurt the longevity of the structure." Due to safety concerns, the tracking was removed, causing delays in the work.
Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Gidi Schmerling said Sunday the city would view "gravely" any delay in the running of the light rail system, which he said would be both a breach of contract and an injury to the public.
Finance Ministry officials could fine the conglomerate - made up of three Israeli and two French companies - for any delay in the work, officials said.
When it finally gets off the ground, the project will ease traffic congestion, allow better access and reduce smog.
The inaugural line, the nearly 14-kilometer "red line," will run from the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev to Mount Herzl via the city center, with 23 stops along the way.
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