After years of delays, the Tel Aviv light rail’s first line is scheduled to start operating on Aug. 18, the Israeli Transport Ministry announced on Friday.
The 24-kilometer (15-mile) Red Line, which connects the coastal city of Bat Yam (just south of Tel Aviv) with Petach Tikvah (east of Tel Aviv) has been green-lighted after all outstanding safety approvals were granted.
Originally scheduled to be launched nearly two years ago, the nearly NIS 19 billion ($5 billion) project was repeatedly derailed by malfunctions, including in its signaling and emergency braking.
The line includes 33 stations and runs from Bat Yam through Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak and Ramat Gan to Petach Tikvah in both directions. Half of the route goes through an underground tunnel.
The inauguration of the Red Line is supposed to include a period of free rides, although the length of the grace period is still under discussion.
The train has been undergoing test runs without passengers for months, with the spring national and Muslim holidays adding to the delays, frustrating Tel Aviv residents who often watch it pass by while they’re stuck in traffic.
The first tender for the rail line was published nearly two decades ago, while the idea of a metro line for Tel Aviv was first broached by then-Prime Minister Golda Meir a half-century ago.
The Jerusalem light rail’s first line, also called the Red Line, was launched in 2011 after similar delays. It has become a distinct feature of the capital city that is used by Jewish, Muslim and Christian residents as well as tourists. Several additional lines are being planned.