It’s happening again: The launch of the Tel Aviv Metro’s Red Line has been postponed for the seventh time (!), to April 2023. So says a harsh state comptroller’s report issued last week about the numerous delays and grotesque cost overruns.

Residents of Greater Tel Aviv don’t need to read the report to know that the project is an enormous failure. The construction has made their lives miserable. They suffer from massive traffic jams, roads that are closed to traffic and lanes taken out of service. It is very difficult to get around in the transportation chaos in Tel Aviv, and to the above issues must be added the wholesale elimination of parking spaces, based on the megalomaniacal policy of Mayor Ron Huldai, who doesn’t care about residents. But, by the way, he knows how to take care of himself quite well. He arranged for a high-occupancy-vehicle lane permit, so he never runs into congestion or gridlock. Infuriating.

Almost 50 years ago, in April 1973, Golda Meir’s government approved a subway for Tel Aviv, but nothing came of it. In the early 2000s, the government realized it was incapable of carrying out such a complex project and issued a competitive bidding tender. In 2006, the winner was chosen: the MTS group, composed of four experienced international firms and two Israeli companies.

The cost of the Red Line was set at 10.7 billion shekels ($3.1 billion at current exchange rates); it was supposed to begin running in 2017. But in 2008, the global financial crisis broke out and interest rates spiked. MTS requested a 400-million-shekel supplement so it would not lose money, but the accountant general’s division of the Finance Ministry refused, fearing criticism in the media. That is how the project got stuck while causing enormous damage to the economy.

Then-Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz jumped at the opportunity and convinced the cabinet to reassign the project to the government-owned company NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System, so that he could make political appointments, control the allocations and increase his own power. But the company was badly mismanaged, with endless power struggles and business decisions that bordered on corruption.

The state comptroller’s report reveals that the cost of the project was updated eight times, to a total of 18.7 billion shekels. In other words, instead of a modest supplement of 400 million shekels for the private initiative, we will be paying an additional 8 billion shekels to the government-owned NTA.

Instead of the first line beginning operation in 2017, it will only start in 2023 – which is a critical delay of six years – and its damage to the economy will total 7 billion shekels. Imagine what supporters of the public sector and the haters of privatization would have said if the situation was the opposite – and a private enterprise would have caused 15 billion shekels in damage. The foundations would have shook from the all the scandal.

The fundamental problem with the project is the planning of the lines. The Red Line recalls the story about a committee that was supposed to design a cat and ended up with a camel. The line is the height of governmental stupidity. Its route is also variously aboveground, underground and semi-underground, or sunken – the worst of all worlds.

The Purple Line will be aboveground, but that too is a grave error. Aboveground lines eat into road space, damage other means of transportation and are much less efficient than subways. And by the way, this line has already been delayed two years. It would be proper to make it – and the Green Line – fully underground, as in every large metropolitan area in the world, using the opportunity to take the project away from NTA and deliver it into private hands.

Now a new-old problem has been added to the mix: the Jewish Sabbath. It’s clear that in the Smotrich-Dery government the metro won’t run on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. In other words, we will spend an excessive amount of money and get an inefficient system and more delays while continuing to hurt people who can’t afford to own a car.

QOSHE - Tel Aviv Metro: The Height of Folly - Nehemia Shtrasler
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Tel Aviv Metro: The Height of Folly

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01.12.2022

It’s happening again: The launch of the Tel Aviv Metro’s Red Line has been postponed for the seventh time (!), to April 2023. So says a harsh state comptroller’s report issued last week about the numerous delays and grotesque cost overruns.

Residents of Greater Tel Aviv don’t need to read the report to know that the project is an enormous failure. The construction has made their lives miserable. They suffer from massive traffic jams, roads that are closed to traffic and lanes taken out of service. It is very difficult to get around in the transportation chaos in Tel Aviv, and to the above issues must be added the wholesale elimination of parking spaces, based on the megalomaniacal policy of Mayor Ron Huldai, who doesn’t care about residents. But, by the way, he knows how to take care of himself quite well. He arranged for a high-occupancy-vehicle lane permit, so he never runs into congestion or gridlock. Infuriating.

Almost 50 years ago, in April 1973, Golda Meir’s government approved a subway for........

© Haaretz


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