The Tel Aviv District Court on Wednesday refused to issue a restraining order against Sunday’s launching of roadwork for the Tel Aviv light rail, telling 26 business owners who had filed suit against NTA, the company building the railway, that there was no way the work could be stopped.
“The horses are already out of the stable,” said Judge Yona Ettedgui. “You yourselves said that you were aware of this whole issue for at least a few months you should have readied yourselves long before,” he said.
With all due respect to the businesses liable to suffer, “It’s impossible to weigh this possible damage against the enormous damage that will be caused by delaying the work,” the judge said.
Ettedgui expressed sympathy for the claimants, however. “There are many people who will suffer, but you are on the firing line, catching the shrapnel more than anyone.” He also said that some of their claims seemed to be justified, among them the fact that no compensation apparatus had been set up. That, however, was not the responsibility of NTA.
Ettedgui suggested to the NTA representatives that the company set up a joint panel with the business owners to discuss solutions to specific problems, like access to stores while the work takes place.
Attorney Oded Peleg, representing the business owners, said, “In a 16 billion shekel [$4.23 billion] project just for the Red Line, it would have been proper to take business owners into account.” He said the state’s approach is to tell store owners that, “’We, the state, will do our best to prevent damage, but if damage occurs that we can’t prevent, [we are] not eligible for compensation.’ We want to prevent damage that will certainly be done to these businesses.”
He also disagreed with the judge’s statement regarding the long advance notice, saying that the first authoritative reports of the start-work date appeared only in late April.
NTA lawyer Yosef Bankal rejected the store owners’ claims that they were taken by surprise. “This work was meant to be launched in 2007 and the [light rail] in operation by the latest 2017,” he said. “That they’re claiming it became known to them only recently is very strange. There’s nothing new here, and nothing that should have surprised anyone.”