Jerusalem Light Rail

Jerusalem Light Rail
     Jerusalem Light Rail

Light Rail on Chords Bridge
Type Tram
Status Opened
Locale Jerusalem, Israel
Termini Israel Air Force Street
Mount Herzl
Stations 23
Services 1 (Pisgat Ze'evMount Herzl)
Opened August 19, 2011
Owner CityPass Consortium
Operator(s) CityPass
Depot(s) French Hill depot
Rolling stock Alstom Citadis 302
Line length 13.8 km (8.6 mi)[1]
No. of tracks 2
Track gauge Standard gauge
Electrification 750 V DC OHLE
Operating speed 80 km/h (50 mph)[citation needed]
Map of the Jerusalem Light Rail

The Jerusalem Light Rail is a light rail line, the first of several rapid transit lines planned by Israel for Jerusalem, Israel's capital city. Construction began in 2002 and ended in 2010, when the testing phase began. It was built by the CityPass consortium, which has a 30-year concession to operate it. Construction also involved building the Jerusalem Chords Bridge, a major city landmark, and renovating a number of central locations in the city. After repeated delays, the light rail began limited passenger service on August 19, 2011. Full operations are scheduled for December 2011. The line is about 14 kilometers (8.7 mi) long with 23 stops. Extensions are planned for both ends of the route.

During construction, the project was delayed by problems ranging from archaeological findings to its flawed traffic light system. The financial management of the project was criticized when direct costs rose more than twofold and controversy arose over the line's route as well as air and noise pollution generated by its construction.

The Jerusalem Light rail on Jaffa Road - October 26, 2011



In ancient times, Jerusalem was a point on the Ridge Route, also known as the Way of the Patriarchs, centrally located between the Via Maris (along the coast to the west) and the King's Highway (east of the River Jordan).[2] The primary roads led to the gates of the Old City, such as the Jaffa Gate and the Damascus Gate. It was along these roads that the city grew when it expanded beyond the walls of the Old City in the 19th century, the major thoroughfares of the city thus becoming the Jaffa Road, leading to the west in the direction of the coastal plain, the watershed routes (Ridge Route) leading north to Ramallah, Nablus, and Damascus, and south to Bethlehem and Hebron, and one to the east to Jericho.[3]

Early plans for an electric tramway were drawn up by a Greek Lebanese engineer, George Franjieh, in 1892, who had been involved in planning the Jaffa–Jerusalem railway. The tram would connect the city with Ein Kerem and Bethlehem.[4] In 1910, a tender for a tramway was published by the Ottoman authorities.[5]

In 1918, the British army built an electric rail system linking the German Colony with El-Bireh, on the outskirts of Ramallah, traversing Jerusalem along a winding route. It was built by Rail Builders Company 272 of the British Engineering Corps, commanded by Col. Jordan Bell, with some 850 Egyptian and local Arab laborers, about half of them women. The railway was used by the British army, and for a few months it supplied Allenby's troops. It was dismantled shortly after the front moved northward in late 1918. Some of the city's streets may have been paved along its route.[6]

In the 1970s, when traffic congestion mounted in the city center, proposals were discussed for widening the main roads.[7] In the 1990s, the government approved new plans for an integrated network relying on rapid transit, including a light rail system and bus rapid transit.[8]


Light rail under construction

In the 1990s, a light rail system was proposed as a means of providing faster and less polluting public transit through the heart of the city, as well as reversing the decline of certain central areas. CityPass, a specially formed consortium, won a 30-year concession to build and operate Line 1 (the "Red Line").[1] CityPass consists of financiers Harel (20%), Polar Investments (17.5%) and the Israel Infrastructure Fund (10%), constructors Ashtrom (27.5%) and engineers Alstom (20%), plus service operators – Connex (now Veolia Transport) (5%).[9] Veolia abandoned the project in 2009,[10] selling its 5% stake to Dan Public Transportation Co.[11]

However, the principal agreement with Dan did not materialize. Veolia entered another principal agreement with Egged. Veolia sold its stake in CityPass and its shares in the contract for the maintenance of the light rail to Egged. The contract stipulates that Veolia would provide consultancy services to Egged, until the company acquired the necessary expertise.[12] Dan has taken Veolia to court for exiting the principal agreement.[13]

Construction of Line 1 began in 2002.[14] Dubbed the "Red Line", it initially has 23 stations on a new 1,435 mm gauge twin-track 13.8 km alignment.[1] It runs from Pisgat Ze'ev in the northeast, south along Road 1 (intercity) to Jaffa Road (Rehov Yaffo). From there, it runs along Jaffa Road westward to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, and continues to the southwest, crossing the Chords Bridge along Herzl Boulevard to the Beit HaKerem neighborhood, finishing just beyond Mount Herzl below Bayit VeGan.[15] The first test run for this route was on February 24, 2010.[16] The laying of the railroad tracks was completed on June 15, 2010.[9]


The date for the inauguration of the light rail service was postponed four times. The initial date was January 2009, deferred to August 2010 due to funding problems and lack of staff. When it was announced that the traffic light network for the trains was not compatible with Israeli stop light systems, CityPass was given until April 2011, but after the problem persisted and other safety issues were not resolved, an August 2011 date was settled on,[17] and service was to begin without giving priority to trains at traffic lights. As a result, travel time for the full route is 80 minutes instead of the planned 42 until final synchronization of the lights is completed.[18] When the light rail started operating on Friday, 19 August 2011, there where also air conditioning issues and electrical and communications problems,[17] one of them making trains suddenly “disappear” and then “reappear” on the screens of the control center near French Hill. In addition to it, the computerized ticketing system collapsed a few days before the inauguration. After arbitration between CityPass and governmental officials, it was decided that the trains would begin limited operation as scheduled.[19] Only 14 of the 21 trains were put into operation, departing every 21 minutes, and travel was free of charge. It is expected that the route will be fully operational within three months after the inauguration.[20]

Development along the route

Mural on Jaffa Road imagining downtown Jerusalem when the light rail system becomes operational

As part of the light rail project, CityPass is expected to install blind-friendly traffic lights along the route,[21] and is developing a number of sites along the route, including Davidka Square. In late 2009, trees were planted along the line. The species selected were deemed suitable to the Jerusalem climate, hardy enough to withstand the capital's cold winters while providing shade in summer. Over 3,500 trees were planted along the route in 2009–11. The genera include platanus, ash and types of oak.[22] In March 2011, however, the Ministry of Transportation objected to having trees adjacent to the route, due to visibility problems.[23]

Chords Bridge

The Chords Bridge is a cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge designed by the Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava, built for the light rail, close to the most frequently used entrance to Jerusalem, in the neighborhood of Kiryat Moshe. The bridge carries the trams in a grade separated manner over the busy road intersection. Incorporated in the bridge is a glass-sided pedestrian crossing, enabling pedestrians to cross unimpeded from the Kiryat Moshe area to the Central Bus Station grounds.

Developments as part of an integrated transportation system

Bus and train connection

The Jerusalem Central Bus Station is slated to became a major passenger transportation hub. The Jerusalem Binyanei HaUma Railway Station is being built for the new high-speed railway to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport. Passengers will also be able to board the existing intercity bus services at the station.

A park and ride facility was built near Mount Herzl, consisting of a multi-storey car park with the first line terminal on its roof, which is actually at the street level of Herzl Boulevard. An additional parking lot was erected adjacent to the Ammunition Hill stop.

Extension plans

The Jerusalem Municipality has plans to build eight bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail lines across the city.[24] Initial extensions to the first line were planned to the neighborhoods of Neve Ya'akov in the northeast, and Ein Kerem (near Hadassah Hospital) in the southwest. Former mayor Uri Lupoliansky stated that they would be completed at the same time as the rest of the line. In 2008, French company Egis Rail won a 11.9 million Euro contract to carry out the work. However, in March 2009, CityPass turned down the project.[25] In May 2010 the Jerusalem Municipality announced that the extension would be built by the state authorities rather than a private company. The extensions will include a line from the Neve Ya'akov neighborhood, a southern extension to Kiryat Menachem and an inter-campus line connecting the Mount Scopus and Givat Ram campuses of the Hebrew University.[26]

North–south BRT line

The first bus rapid transit (BRT) line, a feeder line to the Light Rail, is a dedicated bus line running along Hebron Road in south Jerusalem, northwards to Keren HaYesod Street, and from there to King George V Street, where it crosses the path of the light rail and continues along Strauss Street towards Kikar HaShabbat to Yehezkel Street and Shmuel HaNavi Street, towards Golda Meir Boulevard in the direction of Ramot. Buses on this route are operated by the Egged Transportation Cooperative. Tour buses, Arab buses and mini-buses that run from the Damascus Gate also use the line.

The bus stops on this route have been designed to match the tram stops on the Red Line.[27]

Rolling stock

Initial rolling stock are 46 Citadis 302 100% low-floor five-module units manufactured at Alstom's Aytré factory. All axles are driven to handle up to 9% inclines. The first car was delivered via the Port of Ashdod in September 2007.

The maintenance and storage depot for the whole fleet is located on a 10 acres (40,000 m2) site near French Hill in north Jerusalem. The route and vehicles are monitored from the control center, and trams are driven under line-of-sight principles with built-in priority at many road intersections. The fare collection and ticketing system is supplied by Affiliated Computer Services.[1]

Alstom train for use in the light rail


Light rail on Jaffa Street
Video of light rail on Jaffa Street

The French-based company Veolia Transport, which held 5% of CityPass's shares, was originally meant to operate the light rail. However, due to pressure from groups united in the Derail Veolia Campaign, Veolia sold part of its share in the project in September 2009 to the Dan Bus Company for $15–20 million.[28] However, Dan Bus will need Veolia's expertise for at least five years to run the light rail successfully.

Travel over the entire 13.8 kilometer line is due to take 42 minutes from Pisgat Ze'ev at one end to Mount Herzl at the other. The line operates Sunday through Thursday, from 5:30 am to 11:30 pm, on Friday up to an hour before sundown and not during the Shabbat or Jewish holidays, but resumes half an hour after Shabbat or the Holiday ends.[17] Frequency will be every 4.5 minutes during rush hours, every 8 minutes in the daytime and every 12 minutes at night. It is expected to carry up to 23,000 passengers an hour during peak morning rush hours.[24] The light rail operates at a maximum speed of 50 km/h (31 mph). New regulations were passed by the government in regard to vehicle behavior vis-a-vis the light rail.[29]


The project has aroused controversy because the route passes through territories that Israel captured during the Six-Day War and annexed and incorporated into the Jerusalem Municipality such as French Hill and Pisgat Ze'ev,[30] considered illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem by some parties in the international community. The International Court of Justice[31] and the international community say these settlements are illegal,[32][33] and no foreign government supports Israel's settlements.[34] Israel disputes the position of the international community.[35] In consequence, Dutch bank ASN divested from Veolia Environnement[36] and Swedish pension fund AP7 blacklisted Alstom.[citation needed]

Both Veolia and Alstom were sued by the Palestine Liberation Organisation and French advocacy group Association France-Palestine Solidarité in the French courts.[37][38] In May 2009 it was reported that the Palestinian Authority had been urging Saudi Arabia through back channels to pressure Alstom and Veolia to abandon the project in return for the multi-billion dollar Haramain Express project and the $25 billion Gulf railway project.[39] In November 2009, under the banner of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), Palestinian organizations launched a campaign on the six Gulf Cooperation Council states to withhold lucrative contracts for the Gulf railway project from the two companies unless they comply with demands to withdraw from the Jerusalem project.[40]

Budgetary problems and environmental concerns

The financial management of the project was criticized in May 2008 by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, who reported a 128% deviation in funds, from an estimated NIS 500 million to NIS 1.14 billion. It was also noted that the government had spent NIS 1.2 billion on the project up to 2007, which pointed to a further deviation.[41] The total cost of the initial line (not including the planned extensions) is estimated at 3.8 billion NIS (appx. US $1.1 billion).[42][14]

The project was also criticized for increasing air pollution in Jerusalem.[43] However, it was credited with reducing air pollution on Jaffa Road by 80% when the latter was converted to an LRT-only way.[44] Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem, was critical of the traffic jams caused by construction.[45] In March 2009, he proposed canceling the project after the first two lines were completed and replacing the rest of the planned rail network with buses.[46] In October 2010, residents of Jerusalem filed a NIS 1.2 billion class-action lawsuit against CityPass but the Jerusalem district court ruled that the company could only be sued for air and noise pollution.[47]

Archaeological findings

While tracks for the light rail were being laid in Shuafat, the remains of an ancient Roman–Jewish settlement were discovered. The settlement was described as a "sophisticated community impeccably planned by the Roman authorities, with orderly rows of houses and two fine public bathhouses to the north."[48]The findings are said be the first indication of active Jewish settlement in the Jerusalem area after the city fell in 70 CE.[49]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Jerusalem Light Rail Project". Railway Technology. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  2. ^ Wayne Stiles (2009-02-02). "The Benefits of Understanding and Experiencing the Historical Geography of Israel, Previous Research and Literature Review". Retrieved 2011-08-17. 
  3. ^ Daniel, R.; Render, M. (2003). "From Mule Tracks To Light Rail Transit Tracks: Integrating Modern Infrastructure into an Ancient City—Jerusalem, Israel". Transportation Research E-Circular (Transportation Research Board): p. 764. ISSN 0097-8515. Retrieved 2010-09-19. 
  4. ^ Cotterell, Paul (December 1989). "A Tramway Project in Jaffa". HaRakevet (6): p. 11. 
  5. ^ Hasson, Nir (June 7, 2011). "The Electric Carriage of Mandatory Jerusalem". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-06-08.  (Hebrew)
  6. ^ Hasson, Nir (6 June 2011). "Jerusalem light rail to finally get on track after 101 years". Haaretz. 
  7. ^ Daniel and Render (2003), p. 768
  8. ^ Daniel and Render (2003), p. 767
  9. ^ a b Guttman, Lior (June 15, 2010). "Track-Laying Stage in Jerusalem Light Rail Completed". Calcalist.,7340,L-3408127,00.html. Retrieved 2010-06-16.  (Hebrew)
  10. ^ "Jerusalem rail operator jumps ship, Tel Aviv group isn't even responding and sold". Haaretz. 8 June 2009. 
  11. ^ Baron, Lior (13 September 2009). "Bus co Dan to buy Jerusalem light rail stake. Government officials: Dan has no experience operating trains". Globes, Israel business news. 
  12. ^ "The Jerusalem Light Rail Transit (JLRT)". Veolia Transportation. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  13. ^ Bar-Eli, Avi (November 25, 2010). "Dan Suing as Veolia Rides with Egged". TheMarker. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  14. ^ a b Melanie Lidman (2011-06-30). "Capital merchants struggle with endless light rail delays". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2011-07-04. 
  15. ^ "Settlers condemn and strongly oppose Jerusalem light train project.". 2007-05-03. Retrieved 2009-03-06. 
  16. ^ Tzafari, Yekutiel (January 18, 2009). "February 24: The Train is on the Tracks". Mynet.,7340,L-3835344,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-19.  (Hebrew)
  17. ^ a b c Rosenberg, Oz (19 August 2011). "Jerusalem’s light rail system opens to the public after years of delays". Haaretz. 
  18. ^ Amiram Barkat (2011-07-06). "Jerusalem light rail to begin service next month". Globes. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  19. ^ "Ticket System Collapsed – Jerusalem Light Rail will Start for Free". TheMarker. 16 August 2011. 
  20. ^ Bar-Eli, Avi; Rosenberg, Oz (17 August 2011). "Jerusalem light rail sets off Friday - possibly free of charge". Haaretz. 
  21. ^ Steinmetz, Moshe (November 22, 2009). "Jerusalem: Another Delay in Light Rail's Construction Finish". nrg Maariv local. Retrieved 2009-11-27.  (Hebrew)
  22. ^ Hasson, Nissan (September 25, 2009). "There is No Light Rail Yet, but 3,500 Trees Have Already Been Planted Along its Route". Haaretz. Retrieved 2009-09-25.  (Hebrew)
  23. ^ Alman, Roy (March 17, 2011). "Apparently, Trees on Light Rail's Root Will Be Uprooted". Ynet.,7340,L-4043491,00.html. Retrieved 2011-03-18.  (Hebrew)
  24. ^ a b Cohen-blankshtain, Galit Dr., "Justifying public transport investments: the case of light rail in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv", School of Public Policy and Department of Geography, the Hebrew University,, retrieved 2009-11-09 
  25. ^ Bar-Gil, Doron (March 8, 2009). "CityPass Canceled Light Rail Works in Neve Ya'akov and Ein Kerem". nrg Maariv. Retrieved 2009-03-10.  (Hebrew)
  26. ^ Friedman, Ron (May 25, 2010). "Jerusalem Presents New Transport Plan". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  27. ^ חדשניות BRT bus stops (Hebrew)
  28. ^ Baron, Lior (September 13, 2009). "As Published in Globes: Dan will Operation Light Rail in Jerusalem". Globes. Retrieved 2009-09-16.  (Hebrew)
  29. ^ Hazelcorn, Shahar (October 22, 2009). "The Light Rail: Entrance to Donkeys is Prohibited". Ynet.,7340,L-3793899,00.html. Retrieved 2009-11-27.  (Hebrew)
  30. ^ Kershner, Isabel (June 5, 2007). "Jerusalem Light Rail Raises Questions about the Divided City". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  31. ^ "Summary of the Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004". International Court of Justice. 9 July 2004. p. 10. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ Regarding international organizations and courts of law, see [1]; regarding the UN, see UN General Assembly resolution 39/146, 14 December 1984; UN Security Council Resolution 446, 22 March 1979; and International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion, 9 July 2004, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, para 120; Regarding the European Union position, see The Syrian Golan
  34. ^ Bronner, Ethan (April 2, 2011). "". 
  35. ^ Seth Freedman (26 November 2009). "Israel's occupation, linked by rail". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  36. ^ Rapoport, Meron (December 6, 2006). "Dutch Bank Divests Holdings in J'lem Light Rail, Cites Settlements". Haaretz. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  37. ^ McCarthy, Rory and Chrisafis, Angelique (October 26, 2007). "PLO Disputes Jerusalem Rail Plan". The Guardian.,,2199618,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  38. ^ Higgins, Andrew; Gauthier-Villars, David (January 31, 2009). "In Jerusalem, Arabs and Jews Finally Agree ...". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-11-27. 
  39. ^ Abbas Al Lawati (2009-06-29). "Palestine urges withdrawal of rail contract". Gulf News. 
  40. ^ Abbas Al Lawati (2009-11-17). "Plea to boycott firms with Israel link". Gulf News. 
  41. ^ Hazelcorn, Shahar (May 20, 2008). "The Comptroller: Significant Deficiencies in the Light Rail Project in Jerusalem". Ynet.,7340,L-3545731,00.html. Retrieved 2009-11-27.  (Hebrew)
  42. ^ Hasson, Nir (2011-04-02). "Light Rail on the Way". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-04-02.  (Hebrew)
  43. ^ Bin Nun, Gil (2008-02-26). "Jerusalem 2008 Style: Mountain Air Full of Dust". Jerusalem Mid-week edition (Yedioth Ahronoth): p. 4. 
  44. ^ "Dramatic Decrease of 80% in Air Pollution on Jaffa Street". Jerusalem Municipality. January 25, 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-29.  (Hebrew)
  45. ^ Hasson, Nir (2009-01-15). "New Jerusalem mayor slams light rail project after trudging through capital". Haaretz. Retrieved 2009-03-06. 
  46. ^ Kalman, Matthew (2009-03-29). "Barkat may stop J'lem light rail project". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  47. ^ Shon, Mark (May 12, 2011). "Court Removed Most of the Class-Action Lawsuit against Damages of Light Rail in Jerusalem". Calcalist.,7340,L-3517454,00.html. Retrieved 2011-05-13.  (Hebrew)
  48. ^ Kerhsner, Isabel (June 5, 2007). "Under a Divided City, Evidence of a Once United One". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  49. ^ Amiram Barkat (2 January 2006). "Shuafat dig reveals first sign of Jewish life after destruction of Second Temple". Retrieved 2008-02-01. 

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