Fast train between TA, J'lem expected to open by 2017

One of main causes for delay in construction was Israel Railways’ failure to conduct a proper environmental impact study, report says.

commuting 311 (photo credit: Illustrative photo: Peter Tobia/Philadelphia Inqui)
commuting 311
(photo credit: Illustrative photo: Peter Tobia/Philadelphia Inqui)
After years of delays and extreme budgetary inflation, the rapid train line connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem looks to be on track.
In a Knesset State Control Committee meeting Wednesday, Transportation Ministry Director-General Yaakov Ganot said that work on the track was going full steam ahead and promised that the project would be completed by 2017. Now several MKs are interested in building an additional station in Mevaseret Zion, risking further delays.
RELATED:Cheers at light rail test run over J'lems’s Strings BridgeEditorial: Speed up the trainsThe rapid train project, whose initial planning began in 1995, was originally scheduled for completion in 2008 at a cost of NIS 3.8 billion. Today, the project is estimated to cost upwards of NIS 6b.
In a progress report to the committee, Israel Railways general manager Yitzhak Harel said that contractors were proceeding with works along the entire track and that excavations for the Jerusalem station, to be situated 80 meters underground, at the entrance to the city near the central bus station, had reached the 40-meter mark.
Harel warned, however, that if work on the electricity system powering the track didn’t commence soon, the project could be delayed further.
“The train needs to operate on electricity and if the power lines don’t start getting connected soon, at the beginning of 2018 there will be a track, stations and tunnels – but the train won’t operate because of all the objections to the power lines,” said Harel.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel’s representative at the meeting, Avraham Shaked, said that his organization does not oppose the installation of power lines, and that it was clear to them that a track running on such an incline required electricity.
The project’s problems have already been featured in two State Comptroller Reports, in 2005 and 2009; both put the blame for the delays on the Transportation Ministry, the Finance Ministry and Israel Railways, claiming that all the bodies involved had approved the project before sufficient inspections and analyses of possible problems were conducted, and without waiting for all the construction permits to be authorized.
According to the most recent report, one of the main causes for delay in construction was Israel Railways’ failure to conduct a proper environmental impact study, leading to legal disputes with environmental groups over the route of the track.
In the course of the meeting, several MKs, including committee chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima), Rachel Adato (Kadima) and Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), suggested building another station along the route, in the suburb of Mevaseret Zion.
Hasson said that the train had to be a growth engine for the city and warned against sending the residents of Mevaseret Zion to the coastal region for their shopping, business and entertainment needs instead of to the capital.
“Just like the railroad from Tel Aviv to Haifa developed Haifa and the cities on the route, so the line to Jerusalem must take into account the surrounding cities and provide a fast and convenient substitute for using private vehicles,” said Hasson.
Eliyahu Hasson, a former director-general of the Transportation Ministry and a Mevaseret Zion city councilman, claimed there had been many mistakes in the planning of the line,
among them the fact that there was only one station in Jerusalem.
He said that both Haifa and Tel Aviv, which have smaller populations, have four stations each.
In response Ganot said that there are two additional stations planned for the capital, and that he would present the minister with the residents’ request that the Jerusalem light rail be extended to Mevaseret Zion.
Harel said that the construction of a station for the fast train in Mevaseret was impossible because of the slope of the track.
Hasson called on Ganot and Harel to notify the committee of any body that creates obstacles or further delays the project, which he described as being of national importance.