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Jerusalem Light Rail Project, Israel

Key Data

The largest city in Israel and home to around a tenth of its people, Jerusalem has a population approaching three quarters of a million. Since an eastern part of the city was annexed and incorporated into Israel following the 1967 'Six-Day War', not only has the population grown overall by 2.75 times (forecast for 950,000 by 2020), a marked demographic trend has been towards a smaller proportion of Jewish population.

Designated the capital by Israel but disputed internationally, Jerusalem's complex history and geography are interwoven with development of Israel's first light rail scheme.

The project

In the late 20th century public transport use declined, with roads ever less able to handle rising car use and with little opportunity for committing space to bus-only use. By 1995 light rail was being forwarded as providing faster and less polluting travel, also being a means of reversing the decline of some central areas.

As the opening move within a plan to 2020 for up to eight lines covering Jerusalem's 125km², in late 2002 a specifically formed consortium, CityPass, was awarded the contract.

Winning the 30-year concession to build and operate Line 1 in competition with a consortium that included Siemens, CityPass consists of financiers Polar Investments (27.5%) and Harel (20%), constructors Ashtrom (27.5%) and engineers Alstom (20%), plus service operators Connex – later Veolia Transportation (5%).

"The presumption was that revenue services would begin in 2006. However, the project was delayed."

The presumption was that there would be a three-year construction period and revenue services would begin in 2006. However, the project was delayed, and the opening of the line has been postponed to August 2011. Upon expiry of the concession, the resources will transfer to public ownership.

Objections to the project have come from those who see its route as effectively hardening the link between Israel/western Jerusalem and the previously Palestinian lands subsequently turned into Jewish settlements.

Both Alstom and Veolia have been criticised and faced legal challenges under a Geneva Convention for their involvement.

The circumstances led the Dutch ASN Bank to dispose of its holdings in Veolia (who also have bus interests in Israel) in late 2006. With a commitment to local content within its contracts, Israel is a significant market for Alstom, already active in power supply and through the supply of Prima locomotives to Israel Railways.

Disputes have arisen over permits for access to sites, with claims from the consortium that the schedule could not be maintained. Overall project estimates are in the area of NIS2.2bn (US$0.66bn). In February 2008 CityPass agreed to accept NIS100m from government to compensate for lost revenue caused by delays in facilitating construction of the line.


Construction began in April 2006, raising both dust clouds and criticism over the pollution and disruption, albeit with recognition of the longer-term environmental benefits. Line 1 will have 23 stations on a new 1,435mm gauge twin-track 13.8km alignment from Mount Herzl in the south west via a restyled Jaffa Road to Pisgat Ze'ev, the largest Jewish neighbourhood in east Jerusalem. The rail track for Line 1 was laid by 15 June 2010.

Passing close by the Old City Walls, also included en route is the Central Bus Station, Jerusalem's hub for long-distance transport and the designated site of an underground terminus for the proposed Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem high-speed line. Jerusalem has a relatively minor place in the Israel Railways network and the current Malha terminus on the reopened line from Tel Aviv will not be on the tram route.

"The signature feature of Line 1 is the 'Chord Bridge', or 'Bridge of Strings',designed by Santiago Calatrava."

Light rail electrification will follow the international standard of 750V dc overhead supply. The journey from each terminus to the city centre is projected to take up to 20 minutes, with a peak frequency of 4.5 minutes, 8 minutes in normal daytime, falling to 12 minutes at night. The anticipated demand has been stated at 30 million passengers a year.

The signature feature of Line 1 is the 'Chord Bridge', or 'Bridge of Strings', designed by Santiago Calatrava, whose other railway works include Lyon Airport TGV, Manhattan PATH and Liège Guillemins stations. Opened with a celebratory inauguration in June 2008, the 140m cable-stayed bridge cost NIS220m.

Awaiting rail use, with pedestrian access it will carry the line from Jaffa Road to Herzl Boulevard. Park and ride sites at Mount Herzl and Ammunition Hill are being prepared for operation from the line's opening, with two more planned, all using with combined parking and travel tickets.

Rolling stock

Initial rolling stock will be 46 Citadis 302 100% low-floor five-module units manufactured at Alstom's Aytré factory in south-west France. Styling was selected from options in Jerusalem and features the city's lion emblem, the first being delivered via the Israeli port of Ashdod in September 2007.

All axles are driven to handle up to 9% inclines and the stock is thought to include features related to security conditions in the area. The maintenance and storage depot for the whole fleet is on a 10-acre site near French Hill in the north of Jerusalem.

Signalling and communications

"Services are expected to begin in August 2011, with fares to be priced competitively with city buses."

In common with other modern Alstom networks, the control centre is an integral part of the depot facility from where the route and vehicles will be monitored. Trams will be driven under line of sight principles, with built-in priority at road intersections.

Under a 15-year contract, the fare collection and ticketing system is being supplied by Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) who has also installed contactless ticketing on systems in Lyon, Marseille, Montreal and Melbourne.

The future

Services are expected to begin in August 2011, with fares set to be priced competitively with city buses.

With extensions to serve university and hospital sites, the first line may eventually total around 20km. An extension to Line 1 from Neve Ya'akov neighborhood to Kiryat Menachem is scheduled to be completed by April 2011.

No official schedules for the eight-line master plan up to 2020 have been made public. Won by the MTS consortium involving Siemens and Den Haag transport body HTM, Israel's second light rail scheme is now under development following financial approval in 2007.

The Alstom Citadis light rail vehicle has been chosen by Jerusalem. The vehicles are being built in France for delivery in 2007–08.
The Citadis concept has been chosen by many European cities, but Jerusalem is the first city in Israel to embark on a light rail project.
Jerusalem is due to take delivery of 23 two-car LRVs from Alstom, similar to those in service in Lyon.
The interior design of the Citadis is flexible.
From ancient origins, Jerusalem has grown rapidly and become traffic stifled in recent years.
The Lion emblem of Jerusalem will be incorporated into the livery of the city's Alstom trams.
Jerusalem will join pioneering Tunisia in a growing number of Mediterranean countries using light rail to solve urban transport problems.
Well in advance of the delayed opening, the first Citadis for Jerusalem was delivered in September 2007.