The much-heralded and much-delayed launch of Jerusalem's light rail system in April - with limited shuttle service in the center city only - has yet to be officially worked out between the parties involved.
According to an agreement reached two months ago by the government and City Pass, the operator of the train system, full service on the entire line is to be running by August 8, 2011.
At the suggestion of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, partial service was to begin in April. Free or nominal-fee shuttles were to ply the Jaffa Road spur in the city center - allowing city residents to get used to the new transportation service. The municipality and the Transportation Ministry hoped that such a minimal operation of the light rail would ease the pressure of traffic on Agrippas Street, where all bus lines that pass through the city have been diverted, in order to allow the light rail on Jaffa Road.
However, it now appears that despite festive declarations about the start of limited shuttle service in April, there is no agreement about this between the parties involved. The mediator between the government and City Pass has determined that if the city wants to operate the light rail before the August date, it must approach the company in order to examine the possibility of doing do, and City Pass is obligated to cooperate with such a request.
But since the agreement was signed, the government has not officially approached the company to discuss partial service. Sources close to those involved are doubtful about the readiness to operate in April, for technical reasons.
"In accordance with the mayor's effort, an agreement on an operating schedule will be established between City Pass and the government by the professional mediator before operation begins," Jerusalem city hall said. "The government has begun negotiations with City Pass about how to operate the ... service, accompanied by the mediator who is following their progress in accordance with the terms of the agreement."
A government source said City Pass is expected "to compromise with the citizens of Jerusalem and allow them to enjoy the light rail starting in April."
City Pass responded that it is "glad to make concessions in the matter of shuttles for the benefit of the residents of Jerusalem and center city businesses. At the same time, the date and method of operation of the shuttle has yet to be determined."
According to estimates, if shuttle service were to begin, it would not be before the beginning of June.
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