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Consortiums competing over the construction contract for Tel Aviv's first light rail route - the Red Line - were given a tour of the planned line yesterday.

The 22-kilometer line will run from Petah Tikva to Bat Yam, via Bnei Brak, Ramat Gan, downtown Tel Aviv and Jaffa, with the central 10-kilometer section, from Geha junction to Manshia in south Tel Aviv, running underground.

The consortiums include a range of well-known international transit specialists, whose bids for the line must be in by August 2004.

The competing groups are: Metro - which includes Siemens of Germany, Aecon (Canada), HTM Transportation Solution (Holland), Africa-Israel and Egged; Adanim - comprising Canadian Bombardier, Bouygues and RATP (both from France), Property and Building (Nechesim v'Binyan) and Dan; a consortium of Ashtrom with Alstom and CGEA Connex of France, Building and Construction (Shikun v'Binui) and Polar Investments; and the Spidan group comprising the Italian firm Ansaldo, Daewoo International of Korea, Shapir Engineering, Aviv, Granite Carmel and Bateman Engineering.

The tender for the rail line is of the BOT (build operate transfer) method, whereby the winning contractor builds and operates the line for a set period of time (32 years in this case) before transfering all infrastructure to the state. During the contractual period, the consortium enjoys all revenues from the paying passengers.

To protect against any unexpected fall in passenger traffic, the government will provide a "safety net" to the winning contractor, as it did with the tender to construct the Trans-Israel Highway. If the number of passengers drops below the forecast, then the state will reimburse the contractor at a rate of 75 percent of the difference. However, as Yishai Dotan, head of the regional transport management body NETA, pointed out yesterday, if the numbers overshoot the forecast, the state does not enjoy part of the "profit."