Orlev dismayed by slow progress on light rail

Knesset's Control Committee chairman learns NIS 750 million hav gone to waste in project; construction progressing at snail pace; building permits missing.

jlem light rail 1 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
jlem light rail 1
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Chairman of the Knesset's State Control Committee Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) has expressed dismay at the costliness, slowness and inefficiency of construction work on Jerusalem's light rail. The committee was scheduled on Monday to tour the project to gauge the building progress and see the proposed route of the train, but apart from representatives of the various bodies involved with the project, Orlev was the only committee member to show up. "We can only be sorry about NIS 750 million that have been already buried between the rails," Orlev said. The tour, prompted by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's sharp criticism of the light rail project, has already been postponed twice. The group's bus reportedly took almost an hour to travel a few kilometers along the train tracks, stuck in bottlenecks which - Orlev learned - are expected to remain unchanged even after the work is completed. "Why are there no workers and mechanical equipment along the train's route? Why is the work being done so lazily?" Orlev asked. Alex Krosky, a representative of City-Pass, one of the companies involved, said "working slowly felt like the right choice," but added that the company was recruiting more manpower and would soon start work on the light rail route in shifts. The state, the Jerusalem Municipality and a private contractor have all passed on the blame for the wasted funds. "There were tensions," a representative of the Finance Ministry said, "but now a new schedule has been set." According to the new schedule, the light rail will only be operational in 2010. Orlev also discovered that there were still no building permits for two of the points on the train's proposed route. He also expressed doubt regarding security for passengers. "Buses have one door and a driver [who] keeps an eye on passengers and their bags. Who is going to look after six doors on each train car?" A Jerusalem police spokesperson said there was a "joint security committee" addressing the issue, but its work remained confidential. Omri Edomi, a representative of the Green Course environmental group, commented that 14 train cars were awaiting the line's opening in an open parking lot. "Did anyone consider how these cars will look after being exposed to Jerusalem's weather?" he asked.