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Speaking of that light rail...

by michael January 11 2008
Municipal news

Sigh.

The Jerusalem Light Rail, which can't seem to have a single meter of track laid without running into crippling delays, international shouting matches and grave material failures, has been officially delayed until 2010, instead of the 2009 date promised after the last delay. The Jerusalem Post reports:

Dogged by repeated delays and derailments, the long-planned Jerusalem light rail project will be running in two-and-a-half years, Yair Ma'ayan, director-general of the Jerusalem Municipality, said on Tuesday.

The newly revised timetable will see the controversial city rail system in service by April 2010, he added.

The NIS 4.2 billion project, which is being jointly funded by the Transportation Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality, is the first of its kind in Israel.

Last year, officials confirmed that Jerusalem's long-awaited light rail project, which was previously set to begin running in 2009, had temporarily stalled due to a lack of manpower and first-time construction problems.

The construction problems included incorrect tracking installed on the line on a main thoroughfare near the Mount Herzl military cemetery, which has since been ripped out and redone.

Meanwhile, the "Todah Al Ha-Savlanut" (Thanks for the patience) signs the city put up a couple years ago, proudly emblazoned with the image of the finished light rail, have turned into a grimy, yellowed testament to municipal self-mockery. Savlanut concerning the Municipality's light rail-related shenanigans (not to mention its countless other missteps and misdeeds), it seems, is running out in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat has called for the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into the repeated delays in the city's light rail project.

While Jerusalemite salutes Mr. Barkat for trying to squeeze out of the Municipality the answers Jerusalem residents deserve, it's hardly a mystery to anyone why the light rail has been repeatedly delayed. Most public officials in Israel (and anywhere else), unfortunately, can be counted on to be incompetent, corrupt or a terrifying cocktail of the two. Combine that with a multi-million dollar project, and you can rest assure that nothing will get done until the right pockets are greased - and when they are, and something finally does get done, it's a safe bet it'll get done wrong.

Essentially, this is business as usual, but it contains a more worrisome note than the average incident of civic incompetence. The light rail is ostensibly a system that will transport thousands of passengers, day in, day out, for decades. This is not the kind of project in which one cuts corners. This is not the kind of project that can afford "incorrect tracking." The light rail needs to be the very epitome of safety and reliability - Jerusalem has already had more than its share of disasters. Jerusalemites do not only need to demand accountability - they need to demand responsibility.

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