Light-rail operator to be compensated

Finance Committee okays NIS 150 million for Jerusalem construction delays.

light-rail 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
light-rail 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Knesset Finance Committee on Tuesday approved the payment of NIS 150 million to Citypass, the Jerusalem Light Railway franchisee, as compensation for months of construction delays. The delays cost an estimated NIS 287m., of which NIS 120m. will be transferred to CityPass, which will bear the remainder of the costs, the Finance and Transportation ministries and the Jerusalem Municipality informed the committee. As part of the compensation package, an additional NIS 30m. was approved to cover the cost of work required for the realization of the project. The first line of the Jerusalem Light Railway, which is expected to begin service by September 2009, is now 18 months behind schedule, and the government is partly responsible, it was disclosed at the committee meeting. Some of the project's problems were caused by delays in land expropriations; ordering changes in the project; late responses from the Jerusalem Municipality engineer and archeologists; and conflicting instructions from the Transportation Ministry. According to the figures presented at committee, the total cost of the construction of the Jerusalem Light Railway stands at NIS 3.3 billion, out of which NIS 2.2b. will be borne by CityPass, and NIS 1.1b. will be covered by the public sector. Out of the public sector's share, the Jerusalem Municipality is responsible for 13 percent of the financing, for a total of NIS 144m. Some of the participants in the meeting took issue with the approval of another cash injection into the project. "The demand for additional financing is the result of a series of management failures," Jerusalem City Council member Nir Barkat said. "We need to stop the project and completely revise our thinking regarding public transport. "We need to ask ourselves whether a railway with only one line, which does not include the Old City and the university campus, is the best solution for the City of Jerusalem. The railway will not create future demand, and therefore we need to find a solution that incorporates a broader perspective on urban planning." The "red line," stretching over 14 kilometers, will run from the northern neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev to Mount Herzl via the city center, with 23 stops along the way. The State Comptroller's Report this month found that the government incorrectly estimated the public sector's investment in the project, which has soared from NIS 500m. in 2000 to NIS 1.3b. by the end of 2007, 130% above projections.