Jerusalem high-speed train back on track

Project initially estimated to cost NIS 2.8b, but after 2008 reevaluation, cost jumped to nearly NIS 6b.

israel train 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
israel train 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The social-economic cabinet renewed approval for the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem high-speed railway on Tuesday. The cabinet's decision, part of the government's national infrastructure stimulus plan, comes despite concerns over the economic viability of the link. "The high-speed railway is a national project of strategic importance. The most important consideration in the decision was the good of the city of Jerusalem. Accessibility to the capital needs to be improved," said Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, who jointly heads the social-economic cabinet together with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. "The project will strengthen the city's economic ties and create greater opportunities for its residents and employees," he added. The Finance Ministry was concerned that canceling the project would cost the state hundreds of millions of shekels in compensation for canceled contracts with private companies involved in the project. The ministry said the project had already cost taxpayers more than half a billion shekels. In terms of the progress of the railway, the ministry said all the statutory procedures for the project were almost complete. "We need to make sure that all relevant government ministries and the Israel Railways Company learn from past mistakes and planning failures," Bar-On said. "In the original 2003 plan for the project, the cost assessments that were presented fell short by billions of shekels of the actual cost of the project." From the outset of the project in 2003, the line, which links Jerusalem and Tel Aviv via Modi'in and Ben-Gurion Airport in 28 minutes, has faced financial difficulties due to high costs and planning failures. Initially, the project had been estimated to cost NIS 2.8 billion, but after being reevaluated in 2008, the cost more than doubled to an estimated NIS 6b., which would demand NIS 2b. more to be invested by the government. Planning failures over the past few years have delayed the project repeatedly. The most recent problems in digging the tunnels for the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway are expected to cause a further delay in opening the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed train from 2011 to 2013-14.