Jerusalem Light Rail Sets Off Friday - Possibly Free of Charge

The light rail will operate at no charge to passengers during the initial stages of its operation because the ticketing system for the train collapsed.

Passengers will be able to ride the light rail line in Jerusalem this coming Friday and apparently to do so for free.

This has emerged from a mediation between the state and the franchisee of the project, the CityPass group. Barring surprise developments, the state and CityPass are expected to announce an arrangement whereby the train will be operated in a partial way. CityPass has not yet finished fixing all the safety flaws that were found in the project. Moreover, it seems the light rail will begin operating at no charge to passengers at least during the initial stages of its operation. That's because in recent days the ticketing system for the train collapsed.

Emil Salman

A team of experts from the European railroad safety organization Independent Safety has not yet approved the full operation of the train. It has told the state it will consider approving partial operation of the project under a series of conditions if it is asked to do so.

At the end of a four-hour discussion of the project earlier this week, held by the team of mediators - Judge (ret. ) Boaz Okun and attorney Dov Weissglas - it was decided that CityPass would submit an official request to operate the train on Friday, after which the operating arrangements will be determined.

For the moment, 14 of the 21 trains in the project will be put into operation, departing every 21 minutes instead of every five minutes. However, this authorization does not suffice to permit the commercial operation of the train this week. That's because of the collapse of the project's ticketing system. Last Thursday, CityPass ran a comprehensive trial of the operation of the ticketing system, but it failed. The system, which has been put into the hands of the French transportation company Alstom, is able to collect payment only for the purchase of a single fare at the ticket machines at the train stops. Purchase of combined public transport tickets or tickets for those entitled to discounts failed. In addition, there was found to be a lack of coordination in the synchronization of the payment collection clock, which thus far has not been fixed.

The state has demanded that the train nevertheless go into operation as scheduled, even if this means allowing passengers to travel for free. The repair work on the ticketing system is expected to take at least a month. At CityPass they admit they have a lot of work ahead of them before the light rail system becomes fully operational. The flaws from which the light rail in Jerusalem is suffering at the moment derive mainly from the communications system, the stoplight programming system and the ticketing system. Thus, for example, one of the problems that has not yet been solved is that on the screens of control center at French Hill it happens that suddenly trains "disappear" and then reappear on the screen. But this isn't a matter of flaws that are safety risks, say sources at CityPass, where they expect that within three months at most the light rail system in Jerusalem will be completed, and the state will approve its full operation.

For the time being, the public bus transportation system will continue to operate as usual.