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Big Plans: Israel to build new LRT and metrorail systems [free access]

December 1, 2020

In Israel, expanding rail projects are attracting increasing investment, a development that is driven by two main factors—a rise in population and the government’s focus on achieving a world-class transportation system that contributes to overall economic growth and enhances the social well-being of citizens. The country’s population is projected to almost double from 9 million in 2019 to 17.6 million by 2050. This has created significant pressure on the government to provide adequate infrastructure that meets the expected demand.

 

The existing urban rail network in the country comprises only one operational light rail transit (LRT) line in Jerusalem. The network addition plans comprise the development of LRT networks in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth, and Ariel and the construction of a new metrorail system in Tel Aviv.

 

Key organisations and funding

 

In Israel, public transport projects are being developed by Metropolitan Mass Transit System Limited (NTA), Jerusalem Public Transport Administration (JPTA), and the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety (MOT). The upcoming projects are financed by the government or are being implemented on a public–private partnership (PPP) basis. For instance, multiple light rail projects in Tel Aviv are being financed on the PPP basis, and projects in Jerusalem are being financed by the government.

 

Building the largest LRT network in the Middle East

 

Israel is a relatively new entrant in the light rail market. Global Mass Transit Research has analysed eight upcoming projects spanning around 191.4 km at an estimated investment of over USD21.2 billion. Israel has made the highest investment in LRT systems across the Middle East.

 

Table 1 presents an overview of eight LRT projects currently being developed in Israel.

 

Table 1: Overview of LRT projects currently under development

Project

name

Project

type

Expected opening

Capital cost

(USD million)

Length

(km)

No. of stations

Ariel LRT

New system

2025

1,150

TBA

TBA

Haifa–Nazareth Tram–Train

New system

2027

1,925.09

41

20

Jerusalem Light Rail Blue Line

New line

2027

2,321.63

31

53

Jerusalem Light Rail Green Line

New line

2022–2025

2,321.63

20.6

41

Jerusalem Light Rail Red Line Extension

Extension

2022–2025

1,093.77

6.8

12

Tel Aviv Light Rail Green Line

New system

2027

5,700

39

62

Tel Aviv Light Rail Purple Line

New system

2026

2,500

29

45

Tel Aviv Light Rail Red Line

New system

2022

4,270

24

34

Note: NA – Not available, TBA – To be announced

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

Tel Aviv LRT

 

The project involves development of three lines, which together span 92 km and cover 141 stations. NTA is the developer for all the lines.

  

Red Line: It will span 24 km from the Petah Tikva suburb in the north to Bat Yam through the downtown area, covering 34 stations. The consortium of Egged Group, CRRC, and Shenzhen Metro is the operator. The line is currently under construction. Construction work on the line began in 2016. The line is expected to be operational by end-2022.

 

Table 2 presents details of the key contracts awarded for the Tel Aviv Light Rail Red Line project.

 

Table 2: Key contracts awarded for the Tel Aviv Light Rail Red Line project

Contract award date

 Contractors

Contract details

May 2019 

Finland-based KONE Corporation

The company secured a contract to supply 106 escalators and 63 elevators for the Red Line. The company will also provide maintenance services for 16 years.

May 2019 

Minrav Engineering and Building

The company secured an ILS283 million contract from NTA to construct six underground stations (Abba Hillel, Bialik, Carlebach, Ben-Gurion, Aharonovitch, and Eliflet) over a period of 18 months. The date of commencement of works is yet to be announced.

February 2018 

A consortium of China Railway Tunnel Group and China Railway Electrification Bureau Company Limited

The consortium secured a contract to supply electricity and communication systems as well as light rail tracks for the Red Line.

November 2017 

Alstom

The company secured a EUR90million contract for the development, manufacture, procurement, supply, installation, testing, commissioning, warranty, and maintenance of the signalling and train control system of the 90 light rail vehicles (LRVs) to be deployed on the Red Line.

September 2017

CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Company Limited

The company secured a contract to maintain the LRV fleet, which it will supply for the Red Line, for 16 years.

December 2015

A joint venture (JV) of Israel-based Danya Cebus and China-based China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC)

The JV secured a contract to construct a 3.5-km-long underground section and three underground stations.

November 2015

CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Company Limited

The company will supply a fleet of 90 LRVs. The contract also has an option for the supply for 30 additional LRVs.

October 2014

Parsons Brinckerhoff, now WSP USA

The company secured the USD233 million contract to be the senior consultant responsible for coordination of the various contractors and for project management for a period of 10 years.

July 2011

IBI Group and DHV Group

The partners secured the contract to plan and engineer the underground stations.

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

Green Line: It will span 39 km (4.5 km underground) and will connect the southern portions of the Gush Dan metropolitan area (Holon and the outskirts of RishonLeZion) with Tel Aviv. The line will cover 62 stations. The line is under construction. It is expected to be operational by 2027.

 

Table 3 presents details of the key contracts awarded for the Tel Aviv Light Rail Green Line project.

 

Table 3: Key contracts awarded for the Tel Aviv Light Rail Green Line project

Contract award date

 Contractors

Contract details

October 2020

Minrav Engineering & Construction Ltd.

The company secured the contract to plan and build the underpass section of the Green Line at the junction of Einstein Street and Namir Street. The construction will include a station at the junction. The project duration will be 42 months.

October 2019

Levy & Stark Consulting Engineers Co. Limited

The company secured the contract for the planning of the central segment of the Green Line.

September 2019

China State Construction International Holdings Ltd. (CSCI), a subsidiary company of China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC)

CSCI secured the contract to provide engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services for the G3-2 section of the line. The G3-2 section is the underground part, and the project includes the boring of the tunnels and the construction of two ground portals, an underground station, and three station outer boxes.

NA

Auerbach Haveli

The company secured the contract to provide architecture, planning + strategy services for the line.

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

Purple Line: It will span 29 km, will connect the eastern part of the metropolitan area with the city of Tel Aviv, and cover 46 stations. The line is currently in the infrastructure works phase. It is expected to be operational by 2026.

 

Key developments

 

 

 

 

The estimated annual ridership on the Red, Green, and Purple lines is 70 million passengers, 65 million passengers, and 60 million passengers, respectively.

 

Haifa–Nazareth Tram–Train

 

The project involves the development of a tram–train line spanning 41 km and covering 20 stations, connecting the Merkazit HaMifratz station in Haifa to Nazareth. The Nazareth–Nazareth Illit section will be developed as a light rail line while the remaining section will be developed as a suburban rail line. The project is currently in the detailed design phase. It is expected to commence passenger services in 2027.

 

MOT is the project developer and Trans Israel is executing the project on behalf of the national government.

 

A fleet of 32 train sets will be deployed on the line. The tram–train technology will facilitate travel on both light rail and suburban rail without changing the train. The trains will operate at a maximum speed of 100 km/hr in suburban areas and at 50 km/hr in urban areas. The estimated average daily ridership is 100,000 passengers. The frequency of services is expected to be four trains per hour.

 

The procurement process for the project has two phases that are split between the public and private sectors.

 

Figure 2 presents details of the procurement approach for the project.

 

Figure 2: Procurement approach

 

Source: Trans Israel

 

Table 4 presents the key contracts for the Haifa–Nazareth tram–train project.

 

Table 4: Key contracts for the Haifa–Nazareth tram–train project

Contract award date

 Contractors

Contract details

November 2020 

Y Lehrer & Company, Rolider, Abraham Isaac, and Brothers Anton Earthworks

Trans Israel-Advanced Transportation Solutions awarded the contract as part of the Infra 1 stage of the procurement process.

 

The contractors will conduct civil works on Section D, which is the 7-km urban section connecting Har Yona to Taufic Ziad, through Nazareth. This is the urban section of the project.*

KSMG Contractors, AMZ Shemesh, Olizki Infrastructures, Rolider, and Y Lehrer & Company

Trans Israel-Advanced Transportation Solutions awarded the contract as part of the Infra 1 stage of the procurement process.

 

The contractors will conduct civil works on the 34-km interurban sections A, B, and C which connect Har Yona to Merkazit HaMifratz in Haifa. This is the interurban section of the project.*

April 2020 

To be awarded

Trans Israel invited bids to design, finance, construct, operate, and maintain the system. The last date for submitting the bids was November 17, 2020.

March 2019 

Spain-based Ineco, in partnership with Israel-based Yenon Research and Design Limited

The partners secured an ILS320 million contract from Trans Israel to provide planning services for the tram–train line connecting Haifa and Nazareth.

March 2019

Israel-based Dana Engineering, in collaboration with Spain-based IDOM

The partners are providing management services for the project.

Note: * The scope of works includes site clearance, utilities relocation, and the construction of supporting walls, earthworks, and pavements. Two park-and-ride interchanges are also planned to be built in the Nof Hagalil area of Upper Nazareth. Construction was planned to commence by the end of 2020. No further information has been provided yet.

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

Jerusalem LRT

 

The existing network comprises only one line, the Red Line, spanning 13.8 km from Mount Herzl station near the Beit Vagan neighbourhood to Pisgat Ze'ev, covering 23 stops. It was built by the CityPass consortium, which also had a 30-year concession to operate it. It was inaugurated in 2011. It provides services for over 145,000 passengers on average per day. 

 

In February 2020, the state government bought the Red Line from the CityPass consortium at a value of ILS1.6 billion to pass the project concession on to another consortium, which will build an extension to the Red Line, build the Green Line, and operate both lines.

 

The future plans for the Jerusalem LRT involve the development of an extension for the existing line and the construction of two new lines, which together will span 58.4 km. JPTA is the developer of the system.

 

In August 2019, TransJerusalem J-Net Limited, a consortium of Israel-based Shapir and Spain-based Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF), secured an ILS10 billion contract to build and operate the Red and Green lines.

 

The contract includes the supply of the signalling, energy, and communication systems, as well as the operation and maintenance of the Red Line extension and of the new Green Line for 15 and 25 years respectively, with the possibility of extending the term of operation. The contract also includes the design and supply of 114 new Urbos trams for the new Green Line and the refurbishment of the 46 units that are currently in service on the existing Red Line.

 

Network details

 

 

 

 

 

Ariel LRT

 

Netivei Israel/ National Transport Infrastructure Company had announced plans to develop a new LRT system to connect Ariel City with Rosh HaAyin and Petah Tikva. MOT is the developer. The project is currently under planning.

 

MOT is considering three route options for a single line. Option 1 spans 29 km from Ariel to the northern Rosh HaAyin railway station along Road 5. Option 2 spans 35.5 km from Ariel to the Petah Tikva-Kiryat Aryeh railway station via Rosh HaAyin. Option 3 spans 34 km from Ariel to the Sirkin-Petah Tikva Central bus station via Rosh HaAyin.

 

Other than the nine lines currently under development, plans have been proposed for new LRT lines in the Negev region.

 

Box 1 provides information on the recent proposal made for new LRT lines in the Negev region.

Box 1: Plan for Negev region

In August 2020, plans to construct rail and light rail links to a military intelligence campus, which is to be built at Likit near Be’er Sheva, were announced by the Minister of Transport and Road Safety of Israel. The campus is expected to open in 2026. The proposed rail links are expected to encourage people to live in the area as part of the government’s policy of encouraging development in the Negev region.

As part of the Negev region development plans, a separate project using light rail lines is proposed to connect the centre of Be’er Sheva with surrounding communities including Omer, Meitar and Lehavim, as well as the military facility.

  

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

A new metrorail system in Tel Aviv

 

In December 2018, the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety announced plans to develop three metro rail lines in Tel Aviv at an estimated investment of ILS100–150 billion. Metropolitan Mass Transit System Limited (NTA) is the developer. The operator is yet to be appointed. The project is currently under planning.

 

The three lines together will span 150 km (completely underground) and cover 109 stations. The average daily ridership is estimated at two million passengers and the annual ridership is estimated at 450 million passengers. The operational frequency is expected to be 3–4 minutes. The design was initially expected to be completed by 2019 and construction was planned to begin in 2024.

 

In February 2020, NTA announced that the consultation for the northern sections of Lines M1 and M3 will start in March 2020. The routes are expected to be operational by 2030. No timeline has yet been announced for the start of the consultation for Line M2.

 

Table 5 provides details of the planned metrorail system.

 

Table 5: Planned metrorail network

Line

Length (km)

Stations

Route

M1

85

62

The line will extend along a north–south axis and connect the northern and southern cities in the metropolis to downtown Tel Aviv. It is expected to serve 14 local authorities.

M2

26

22

The line will extend along an east–west axis and connect the cities of the middle and inner rings to the core of Tel Aviv. It is expected to serve seven local authorities.

M3

39

25

It will be a half-ring line that will connect the radial metro lines and other mass transit lines in the Gush Dan metropolitan area. The line is divided into a main line and a branch to Ben Gurion Airport. It serves the middle ring of Tel Aviv. It is expected to serve 11 local authorities.

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

 

Looking ahead

 

The government has taken the necessary steps to increase investment. It has prepared plans to meet the expected rise in demand driven by the projected increase in population.

 

The Government of Israel lacks experience in handling urban rail projects and hence has faced disputes with the operators. Israel’s PPP approach was expected to deliver a higher quality of infrastructure services, through a balanced regulatory environment. However, PPP projects in the country face challenges such as temporary private ownership of public assets; higher private sector finance costs; high tendering costs; and reduced budget flexibility resulting from the creation of long-term obligations towards projects.

 

The upcoming metrorail, Jerusalem Light Rail Blue Line, and the Ariel LRT projects are all currently in the planning process and present ample opportunities for rail operators, rolling stock suppliers, and rail system manufacturers. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a halt in the development of several transportation projects in the country.

 

(1ILS [New Israeli Shekel] = 0.30 USD); (1 EUR [Euro] = 1.20 USD)