Changes made to the tender for the initial phase of Tel Aviv's light rail project - the Red Line - will save between NIS 500 million and NIS 1 billion in public money, NTA - the government company running the project - said Tuesday. Two key improvements to the original project include narrowing the stations along the line's underground segment to 70 meters from 105 meters - in accordance with demand forecasts - and allowing the first segment to be completed - running from Bat Yam to Jaffa - to be opened ahead of the subsequent segment, which goes through Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, and Bnei Brak on its way to Petah Tikva. The narrowing of the stations, alone, was expected to save $80m. Allowing the Bat Yam-Jaffa segment to run before the rest was expected to ease fundraising by the winning consortium and, in turn, enable the winning consortium to begin work on the line earlier, said NTA spokesman Moshe Gal. Furthermore, the new tender would allow early planning to be conducted before fundraising is completed, pushing up the date of the line's opening by roughly one year, the office of the Accountant General added. Other changes to the tender included engineering and financing details of the project. The improvements result from a study commissioned by Accountant General Yaron Zelekha from an "international" consulting firm, identified only as LBG, in cooperation with NTA and the Transportation Ministry. The original NIS 10b. cost estimate for the project is now expected to be cut by between 5 percent and 10%, Gal said. Zelekha coordinated the changes with the heads of the consortia contending for the tender to carry out the project. A final date for submission of bids - February 27, 2006 - was also agreed upon, his office said. Two weeks ago, a source close to the deal indicated that the deadline would be set for mid-February. The deadline has been pushed back five times due to communication problems within the groups, he said. In January 2005, NTA had expected the offers to be submitted by March 31, 2005. Three international consortia are vying for the tender. The MTS group includes Africa-Israel, Egged, Germany-based Siemens, China-based CCECC and Portugal-based Soares Da Costa. Metro-Rail brings together Housing and Construction (Solel Boneh's parent company), Ashtrom, French rail car maker Alstom, French public transportation operator Connex, French infrastructure company Vinci (which is one of the world's largest infrastructure companies), and Germany-based Zublin. Finally, Spidan is a consortium uniting Tahal (Israel Water Planning), the Kardan group, Shafir Engineering, Aviv Construction, US-based Parsons Brinckerhoff, German public transportation operator BVG, and Canadian rail car maker Bombardier. Assuming the February deadline is met, the Red Line should be completed in 2012 or 2013, and the Green Line, which is not yet under tender, should be ready about two years after that, according to NTA estimates.