A SIGNING ceremony was held at the offices of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on July 17 to mark financial close for the 28-year concession to build the Jerusalem light rail network.

Transport Minister Meir Shitrit and the then Finance Minister Benyamin Netanyahu participated in the event, along with Jerusalem's Mayor Uri Lupolyansky and Chief Executive Eithan Meir and representatives of the CityPass consortium.

CityPass includes Alstom and Connex, with Israel's Polar Investments, Harel Insurance and local civil engineering firm Ashtrom. The US$446m financing package is backed by the Hapoalim and Leumi banks. The Israeli government is contributing another US$290m towards the cost of the project.

The city plans to complete an eight-line network by 2020, totalling 50 km with 75 stations. Civil works are already underway along the 13·8 km first route, and tracklaying is expected to start in December. The concessionaires will also begin installing the overhead power supply, stations and ticketing and information systems.

Alstom is to supply a fleet of 46 Citadis low-floor LRVs 32m long, which will be based at a new depot near French Hill in northern Jerusalem. The first cars are expected to arrive in mid-2007, with the line opening towards the end of 2008.

  • CAPTION: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (left) watches as Doron Klausner of Hapoalim Bank signs the concession on behalf of the CityPass backers