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Tel Aviv light rail no longer on track for 2022 opening — report

Officials tell Transportation Ministry that inaugural Red Line won’t be ready until middle of next year due to issues with signal system; completion of other lines also pushed back

Construction of the Red Line of the Tel Aviv Light Rail on September 13, 2021. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Construction of the Red Line of the Tel Aviv Light Rail on September 13, 2021. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Delays plaguing construction of Tel Aviv’s highly anticipated light rail will push its opening into the middle of next year at the earliest.

Problems with the network’s signaling system mean the light rail’s inaugural line will not open in November as planned, with other planned lines also experiencing setbacks.

Officials from NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System, the government company developing Tel Aviv’s mass transportation network, recently informed the Transportation Ministry that it does not foresee being able to open the Red Line on time, Channel 12 news reported last week. Instead, estimates now put the line’s opening sometime in the second or third quarter of 2023, according to the report.

The delay comes after officials last year pushed the opening time from August 2022 to November 2022.

The logjam is being caused by both delays in completing some stations and problems with the signaling system. The system controls the movement and timing of trains throughout the network, consisting of 34 kilometers (21 miles) of track and 34 stations.

The Red Line, which will run from Petah Tikva to southern Bat Yam via Tel Aviv, is the first of three planned light rail lines, which will include underground sections, along with the proposed addition of three subway lines.

The system is expected to significantly ease traffic congestion in Israel’s financial and cultural heart, which has few public transportation options beyond buses, shared taxi vans and an intercity commuter rail.

Chinese workers attend the opening ceremony of the construction works for the new Tel Aviv Light Rail on February 19, 2017. (Flash90)

Construction of the two other planned light rail lines is also running behind schedule. The Purple Line’s initial section, between Arlozorov and Hayarkon streets in Tel Aviv, is forecast to be delayed at least three years beyond its original 2027 expected launch date. The line will eventually traverse Ramat Gan and reach Yehud.

The Green Line, which will eventually run from north of Tel Aviv through the city to Rishon Lezion, is also facing a minimum 23-month delay, due to delays on a section of the track through Ramat Hachayal, which has yet to see construction begin.

Illustrative photo of heavy traffic on the highway entering Tel Aviv. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

When completed, the light rail and subway network will cover the entire Tel Aviv metro area with 240 kilometers (149 miles) of track and hundreds of stations, linking Ra’anana and Kfar Saba north of the city, to Rishon Lezion and Rehovot to its south, as well as Lod, Ramle, Ben Gurion Airport and everywhere in between.

The six planned lines are slated to be completed sometime in the next decade at a cost of NIS 18 billion and counting. It is Israel’s largest-ever infrastructure project.

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