November 17, 2010 by staff
“The population has suffered from the work that started in 2006, but we reach our goal,” says Shmuel Elgrably, spokesman for the Jerusalem Transportation Management Team (JTMT), a public body of experts linked to the Ministry of Transportation and the Town Hall.
The tram should be completed in 2008 but was delayed due to archaeological discoveries during excavations, errors, disagreements and a finicky process.
The project was also attacked on the political front as the tram will serve East Jerusalem, Arab-dominated sector, considered occupied territory by the international community.
A pro-Palestinian group has sued the Justice French Alstom and Veolia, the two French giants involved in the construction, arguing that the route of the tram in the Arab part of the holy city, annexed by Israel in 1967, violated international law.
“All this has earned us the threats of boycotts and losing important contracts,” admitted an official of Veolia on condition of anonymity.
On the ground, local residents have had to take their troubles patiently. “We lived in the dirt, stunned by jackhammers. Result, our clients have fled,” complained one trader from the city center.
“He had to go through it. The city will have in 15 years over a million inhabitants (790,000 today). The tram is THE solution to win the battle of the movement,” pleads M. Elgrably.
The government is betting on the tram to restrict car access to downtown, pedestrian soon, and reduce pollution.
His international tender was won in 2004 by the City Pass, a consortium of Israeli side Harel Insurance Investments and Polar for the financing and Ashtrom (civil engineering), and Alstom and Veolia, which has obtained a concession of 30 years.
The first line, dotted with 24 stations, stretching over 14 km in both directions, from the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev settlement in East Jerusalem, to Mount Herzl in the west, through the famous Jaffa Street, the shopping downtown.
Elgrably says, “Only profitability criteria dictated the choice of route.” He expects 320,000 users a day citing a report that 37.7% of the residents served, secular Jews and Orthodox and Arab use public transit.
A total of 46 cars will transport the user, with 250 passengers each, the rate of one tram every five minutes during peak hours.
The planned extension of the tram network will link downtown and two major complexes of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital, located respectively east and west.
The project has already cost one billion euros. It took expropriate and compensate 300 families waterfront, build parking lots, renovate the road sometimes dating from the Ottoman period, form a special unit of anti-t*rror*sm and solve many puzzles topography.
How can such tram to make a turn at right angles to the end of the road from Jaffa? A tunnel is impossible; the solution has become the bridge but provided they do not obstruct the horizon with huge concrete pillars. That is why the Spanish architect Santiago Caratrava achieved a monumental suspension bridge at the entrance to the Holy City.
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