The Jerusalem Municipality on Wednesday acknowledged that severe disruptions, delays and other problems were plaguing construction of the capital's light rail system, and faulted the City Pass conglomerate carrying out the work. The municipality, in a letter sent to the Finance Ministry on Sunday, cited the lack of an updated, stage-by-stage working plan, limited working hours and insufficient manpower and construction equipment. "A compilation of data over the last two weeks indicates that the work is being carried out slowly, with multiple delays... in most of the sections," reads the letter sent by Mayor Uri Lupolianski's adviser on the light rail, Yuval Weitenberg, to Deputy Accountant-General Avi Dor. "Moreover, it emerges that in entire sections [of streets] closed off to traffic for the work to be carried out, no work is being carried out at all for long periods of time, and during the time when work is done it is carried out slowly and with limited manpower and equipment." The letter, which was sent to the deputy head of the Finance Ministry's allocation department, also reported a lack of inspection and supervision on the part of City Pass, as well as a lack of coordination between the company and its contractors. City Pass comprises three publicly traded Israeli companies: Ashtrom Properties Ltd., Polar Investments Ltd., and Harel Insurance Investments and Financial Services Ltd., as well as two French companies, Alstom SA and Veolia Environnement SA. The harsh condemnation of the delays in the project - which comes two months before the mayoral election - follows a recent boisterous city hall protest by merchants who say the infrastructure work on Jaffa Road is destroying their livelihoods. The Jaffa Road work is scheduled to continue for nearly two years. According to the city's letter, the work in the area has been ending at 4:30 p.m., even though it is licensed to continue until 7 - and in certain stretches of the street through 11 p.m. "This is administrative failure and the mayor's direct responsibility," said Jerusalem opposition leader and mayoral candidate Nir Barkat in a statement. "It is regrettable that only after the city [center] gets paralyzed does Lupolianski remember to send his assistant to hurry up those carrying out the work." The City Pass conglomerate placed the blame right back on the municipality. "We were stunned to receive the city's letter, which displays a lack of knowledge regarding the relevant facts," a spokesman said in a statement. "The city has delayed issuing building permits for many long months, and is delaying issuing work permits and thereby delaying the work." "We are making every effort to meet the deadline or even be done in advance despite the delays, which are not under our control, and are a result of issues connected with the Jerusalem mayoral race." The spokesman declined to explain why work was ending around 4 p.m. instead of 11. The NIS 4.2 billion project is being jointly funded by the Transportation Ministry and the municipality. After years of delays, the first line is now scheduled to begin running in September 2010. The inaugural line, the 13.8-kilometer "Red Line," will run from the northern Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood to Mount Herzl via the city center, with 23 stops along the way. The construction problems included incorrect tracking installed on the line on Herzl Boulevard that has since been ripped out and redone. In a recent report, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss found the government incorrectly estimated the public sector's investment in the project, which soared from NIS 500 million in 2000 to NIS 1.3b. as of the end of 2007, 160% above projections. Last year, Barkat called for the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into the repeated delays in the project, but his proposal was never taken up by city or state officials.

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