Fast Train to Yerushalayim Slowed Again

Israeli Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz. (Flash90)

Initially scheduled for a Pesach opening, the fast train between Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim was postponed until Erev Sukkos due to safety concerns. Now the project is expected to be delayed until some time after the chagim, this time due to bureaucratic stumbling blocks.

Senior Israel Railways executives notified Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz at a meeting on Sunday night that the September opening date was “probably unrealistic,” Globes reported.

The reason is that the Spanish contractor Semi Group, which is building the railway, is taking longer than expected to obtain the necessary planning approvals from Israeli regulators.

“The Minister of Transport is going to be surprised for a second time,” a senior transport source familiar with the project, said. The first time he was surprised was in February when Katz learned from a notification to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) by Israel Railways that the line would not be opening in March.

After that, Katz promised September. Now, that’s apparently fallen through.

The bureaucratic delay could have been anticipated, according to the transport source: “It was to be expected that a contractor coming from abroad and working in Israel for the first time would struggle on these issues,” he said.

While Israel Railways could theoretically sue Semi for damages over missed timetables, it is unlikely to do so, in view of various delays caused by legal uncertainties in the first year of the project, according to Globes.