NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System Ltd. is the company responsible for the design and construction of a mass transit system for the Tel Aviv metropolis. NTA is a government company founded in 1997 for the purpose of providing appropriate solutions for the metropolis’ transit problems. NTA is leading a cultural-national revolution in the field of transportation through construction of the main public transportation system of the Gush Dan region. This mass transit system is the largest and most complex transportation project ever executed in Israel.
The Red Line will be the first of a network of Light Rail Transit (LRT) to be operated by NTA. This line represents part of a comprehensive plan to improve the welfare and quality of life of Israel’s citizens.
In 2010, the government passed a decision to transfer responsibility for execution of the project to NTA. Pursuant to the government decision, NTA began extensive recruitment of professionals in the fields of engineering, design, and infrastructure for purposes of the project.
The government decision (2010) to transfer execution of the project to NTA became a turning point for the project. After a brief period of organization, a series of operations were initiated simultaneously to advance all LRT lines. Relocation of infrastructure, preparation of execution tenders, change of organizational structure, and innumerable operations performed simultaneously, characterized the current phase of the project life cycle.
In 2012, the scope of operations reached its zenith, with NTA issuing some of the largest execution tenders ever issued in Israel. The list of tenders included the Prequalification phase (PQ) for the conventional NATM digging works tender, the TBM digging works tender together with the station complex tender, and the SDAG (the train system that is the heart and brain of the project) tender. The professional conferences held by the company met an active response and saw the participation of dozens of international firms, including some of the leading and largest companies. The companies came from 12 different countries, a clear vote of confidence in NTA, the project, and the State of Israel.
At the conclusion of the process, 18 giant international companies, some in partnership with Israeli firms, submitted their proposals for participation in the tender.
Milestones in the development of NTA
it’s been a long way since the establishment of NTA in the middle of the 1990s. The following paragraphs present the development and growth of the company, from a body primarily intended to represent the government and supervise the construction of the light rail, to the execution body leading the construction of the entire light rail system, and, possibly, the construction of metro system (the underground train), in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. Here are some of the major milestones in the history of NTA since it was established in 1996:
1996: the Government of Israel decides to establish NTA; the goal – to conduct a feasibility survey for the construction of a mass transit system in the Israel’s main metropolitan area.
1998: the National Outline Plan for rail is approved, but its budget is not approved at first, and finally is only partially approved (2 billion dollars instead of 7 billion dollars.
1999: an economic team headed by Prof. Reuven Grunau examines the issue and finds that establishing a light rail system is economically viable. A tender is published for the design of the first to lines of the light rail system. NTA’s role is redefined and becomes broader – to represent the government in dealings with companies in tenders, carry out tenders and guarantee agreements on behalf of the government, i.e., the delivery of rail alignments clear of infrastructures.
2001: a preliminary tender is published for the construction of the Red Line.
203: the main tender for the construction of the Red Line is published and includes a schedule – the winning bid for the construction of the Red Line will be selected by February 2005 and the line will begin to operate in 2010.
2006: due to legal and other delays, the winner in the tender – MTS Group – is only selected in 2006, and the agreement with it is signed in May 2007.
2009: two years after signing the agreement, MTS is facing financing difficulties.
2010: following MTS Group’s difficulties, the entire project is at risk. After a year of examining alternatives, the government decides to cancel the agreement with MTS and transfer the responsibility to establish the light rail to NTA.
The government approves a new National Outline Plan for transportation that includes 7 light rail lines – red, green, purple, yellow, light blue and brown. The first to be constructed would be the Red Line, the Green Line and the Purple Line.
By making NTA responsible for the construction of the Red Line, the company takes on a new role – to create a metropolitan control center to manage public transportation in Gush Dan. This control center would be established at the Arlosoroff Station area and would oversee the entire area between the Mediterranean, road 5, road 40 and road 431.
2011: digging begins. Work starts underground with the digging of launching shafts for the Red Line tunnels in Herzel in Tel Aviv, Galey Gil on the border of Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv and the depot area in Petah Tikvah.
2014: after several years of instability in the company’s leadership, Yehuda Bar-On is appointed CEO. Bar-On holds the position for five years, and under his leadership, work goes into a high gear.
2015: in the second half of the year, massive work begins on the Red Line, and the project becomes part of the daily life of residents – main traffic arteries are closed, the Ma’ariv bridge is demolished, and excavation work for the Allenby and Carlebach stations begins.
Later in the year, the Minister of Transportation approves the beginning of work on the Green Line and the Purple Line.
2016: the tender for the supply and maintenance of the Red Line rail system is published but is unsuccessful.
2017: in February, the construction of the tunnel boring machines is complete, and tunneling begins. Each tunnel is bored from both ends at the same time. This stage of the work lasts two and a half years.
The Tevel Group (Eged together with two Chinese companies) win the tender to operate the Red Line. The line is expected to be opened by the end of 2022.
2018: NTA is assigned responsibility for the planning of the Metro lines with a cost of half a milliard NIS. The cost of the entire project is estimated as 150 milliard NIS.
In December, infrastructure work for the Green Line and the Purple Line begins.
2019: Haim Glick is appointed CEO. He expands NTA’s involvement to additional lines in the light rail system, together with preparations for the completion of the Red Line and the start of commercial operation.
In November, the cars and other rolling stock of the Red Line arrive in Israel.
2020: the Corona Virus pandemic breaks and causes slight delays, among other reasons, due to international shipping difficulties.
2021: the first test drive of the Red Line in preparation for its opening in 2023.