When people think of vibrant Mediterranean cities, Tel Aviv is often overlooked. And yet, anyone who has been to the city comes away with the impression that it’s arguably the best display of all that is modern in the region – quite a big claim when it can count Rome and Athens among others in its vicinity, but it’s a claim which Tel Aviv can stake a strong claim to.
For example, Israel has more companies on the NASDAQ, the world’s benchmark technology stock exchange, than any other country other than the United States. Most of these companies work out of Tel Aviv. It recently was voted the 2nd most innovative city in the world, and the best city in the Middle East for young people to live in.
It’s only right then, that the city should have an infrastructure that reflects its growing stature. The NTA is responsible for the design and construction of a mass transit system for the Tel Aviv metropolis. We recently spoke with Mr. Sharon Volfer VP of Resources at the NTA, about how the project is progressing and how it will make Tel Aviv a model for sustainable transport in the region when finished.
The NTA was founded as far back as 1997, but has really only come into its own since current CEO, Yehuda Bar-On was appointed in 2014, from when the company began pushing ahead with its plans for Tel Aviv. As Volfer explains: “Construction of the first LRT line – The Red Line – began in August 2015 and it is expected to be operational in October 2021.”
NTA sets about resolving Tel Aviv’s infrastructure problems
Until the beginning of the 21st century, Tel Aviv was a city whose population had grown at a reasonable rate for decades. But around that time, increased jobs and opportunities combined with a growing reputation led to a spike in the population. From 2005 to 2015, the population began to grow at a much faster pace – over 1% annually.
This growth called for an updated, modern transport system. As Sharon Volfer explains: “NTA’s vision is to provide a convenient and advanced public transport service, which will be an attractive option to a wider public, so that in 2040 it will be able to serve 40% of the metropolis residents, similar to the norm in the world’s big cities.”
Getting to that stage is a considerable undertaking for the NTA; Sharon Volfer tells us: “The Red Line is considered to be the largest and most complex infrastructure project in Israel. It passes through the busiest routes of five municipalities – each requiring specific coordination, as well as complex coordination with infrastructure companies.”
No expense has been spared to ensure that the project’s development matches the ambitions of the city it serves. The project budget is approximately US$4.5 billion, fully funded by the Israeli government. NTA currently employs 140 workers, and in total, the project employs several thousand people, including local and foreign contractors and advisors.
Good infrastructure is sustainable infrastructure
The first point to note about the NTA’s Tel Aviv transport plans are the number of cars it will take off the road when operational. Sharon Volfer says: “The Red Line is expected to serve approximately 250 thousand people a day, once it becomes operational. According to the forecast, the train line will remove approximately 50 thousand private vehicles from the roads.”
He continues: “NTA is committed to environmental and sustainability values throughout the project. Even at the design stages, a guide was formulated requiring the integration of green construction standards and a supervisory system to oversee the project’s sustainability values.” This includes considerations for solid waste, water recycling and the replanting of any trees which need to be moved during construction.
The same criteria are demanded of its partners. As Mr. Volfer points out: “All implementation contractors are required to hire environmental managers to monitor the project, and management companies supervise the process. In the process of designing the carriages, requirements were included for energy efficiency, regeneration of energy, use of recyclable materials and more.”
While NTA has employed the services of Parson Brinckerhoff as the project managers on the project (PB is working as the Senior Consultant providing programme management, technical, engineering, planning and commercial assistance for the network), the majority of those employed by the project – both companies and people – are Israeli nationals. Sharon Volfer explains: “The larger part of the suppliers for the project are local. The project is, in fact, responsible for the employment of thousands of Israelis. Foreign suppliers are also obligated to reciprocal procurement in Israel.”
First among them are the construction companies. Mr. Volfer notes: “The implementation of the underground sections of the line will be carried out by partnerships of large Israeli construction contractors and experienced Chinese tunneling companies.” These include CRTG and Solel Boneh on the western part of the construction and tunneling, and CCECC and Danya Cebus on its eastern part.
Italy’s D’Appolonia takes charge of quality control on all operations, while further local firms like Dana engineering and Spivak engineering are responsible for engineering functions on the western and eastern part of the project, respectively. Finally, CRC (Changchun Railway Vehicles) is the supplier of the rolling stock, while systems tenders are currently in operation.
Opening Bright Opportunities in Tel Aviv
Make no mistake, the NTA’s LTR project will transform the fabric of Tel Aviv for the better. Mr. Sharon Volfer firmly believes this: “NTA’s network of light railway lines is being constructed at the time of vast regeneration and development of the metropolis. The light railway will upgrade the urban space, improve the environment and create a new and advanced urban culture similar to that in the largest and most beautiful cities in the world.”
The Israel government has also recognized its importance to the country as a whole, already setting the budget for two further LRT lines – the Purple Line (from the east of the city to the heart of Tel Aviv) and the Green Line (connecting the north and south of the city), both to be constructed by the NTA. In addition, the NTA has been assigned to begin planning for metro lines that will be added to the network in the future.
The NTA’s motto translates as something close to ‘tough now, relief later.’ The light rail project will provide much relief to commuters in Israel’s second biggest city, considerably improving sustainability in the city – and presenting a side to Tel Aviv that many aren’t familiar with: the Mediterranean’s most impressive 21st century cities.
For more on this project visit www.nta.co.il
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22 April 2015