Katz compares TA Light Rail failure to Second Lebanon War

"If defense minister, PM and chief of staff of the time would have acted differently, result would have been different," says transportation minister.

TA traffic_311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
TA traffic_311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz derided the failures of the Tel Aviv Light Rail initiative and spoke of its coming nationalization in the city on Thursday.
He spoke as the guest of honor at The Marker’s annual Infrastructure, Transportation and Real Estate Conference.
Katz drew a parallel between the failure of the light rail project and the performance of the national leadership during the war against Hizbullah in 2006.
“The transportation situation in Tel Aviv is one of the biggest failures in Israel’s history. I compare it to the Second Lebanon War. If the defense minister, prime minister and chief of staff of the time would have acted differently, the result would have been different. The same goes for the light rail. In effect I can say that nobody acted properly,” Katz said.
“We are 14 years after the setting of the cornerstone for the light rail and four after announcing the winner of the tender to build and operate it. If it is necessary to choose between no progress, like the situation we are in now, and having the government run the project, I prefer the second option. In 10 days the cabinet will hold a meeting where it will be decided that [the stateowned] Metropolitan Mass Transit System will take control of the project and run it with Treasury funds,” he said.
Katz said the current government had invested more in infrastructure than any previous government and that success depended on political stability. “I believe that there will be political stability and that all the government’s plans will reach fruition. Seven years from now Israel will be unrecognizable,” he said.
During a panel discussion that focused on metropolitan transit solutions, Yitzhak Zuchman, deputy director-general of the Transportation Ministry, said that in 2010 half a million new cars took to the roads, and warned that if Israel doesn’t adopt a mass transit solution, “within a number of years, mobility will be catastrophic.”
Zuchman went on to talk about the way in which Israel should approach large infrastructure projects, saying that the Build Operate Transfer (BOT) model, where a private company takes control of a project for a given number of years before handing it over to the state, was only suitable for projects that were built outside of cities. He said that after the success of the Highway 6 toll road, everybody thought that the BOT model was best, but that when the projects were constructed within city limits, the private sector had difficulty in operating efficiently.
Metropolitan Mass Transit System chairman Michael Ratzon said that the light rail project was too complex for the private sector to undertake and that his organization had the ability to see it through. “MMTS has undergone a transformation and we have the tools to take on both the authority and the responsibility of managing the project. The train will indeed ride the tracks and sooner than anyone thinks,” Ratzon said.
Egged chairman Gideon Mizrachi expressed doubts about the state’s ability to carry the burden of the project. “I wouldn’t rule out the option of using buses for mass transit. So far we are inexperienced in light rail networks. Trains are less flexible and the two modes of transport compliment each other,” he said.
Mizrachi criticized the state for not investing enough in infrastructure for buses. “Even though the train transports 100 million passengers a year and buses transport five times that amount, the main investment is in railroads and not in bus lanes. Egged by itself carries a million passengers a day, and is forced to operate with an infrastructure that is far from suitable.”