Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz has promised that the new Jerusalem - Tel Aviv fast rail link will be operating by the Sukkot holiday at the end of September. Katz's pledge came after the opening of the railway was postponed from the end of March. However, sources inform "Globes" that at a meeting last night senior Israel Railways executives told Katz that the September date was probably unrealistic.
The reason for the latest delay is that the Spanish contractor Semi Group, which is building the railway, is struggling to cope with Israeli bureaucracy and obtain the various planning approvals from the relevant Israeli regulators.
"The Minister of Transport is going to be surprised for a second time," a senior transport source familiar with the project has told "Globes." The first time he was surprised was in February when Katz learned from a notification to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) by Israel Railways that the line would not be opening in March.
Last night's meeting was probably so that Katz would not be surprised by this second expected delay. Before the meeting, Semi executives and lawyers met with Israel Railways executives and lawyers in order to ask for assistance in working with government ministries.
The transport source told "Globes," "It was to be expected that a contractor coming from abroad and working in Israel for the first time would struggle on these issues.
"Globes" has also learned that Israel Railways can sue Semi for large penalties for not meeting timetables. However, Israel Railways has refrained from doing so because many of the delays were due to legal uncertainties in the first year of the project.