TRIAL excavation is now underway in Holon to the south of central Tel Aviv, in order to assess the ground conditions that will be encountered during the construction of the metro to serve the greater Tel Aviv region.

The ambitious masterplan being taken forward by Tel Aviv Metropolitan Mass Transit System (NTA) envisages the construction of three metro lines - M1 Red, M2 Blue and M3 Grey - that will serve Rehovot and Bilu Junction to the south of the region, North Ra'nanana and Kfar-Sava in the north, and Petach-Tikva and Rosh Ha-Ayin to the east.

The 150km metro is due fully completed by 2033, but the central section is expected to be opened to passengers in stages from 2028.

Three tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will be required to build the running tunnels for the metro, and it is expected that each TBM will complete 80m of tunnel every working day.

Tunnel design will make provision for enough flexibility to avoid the structures being damaged by earthquakes.

Three tunnelling contracts are currently out to tender with 10 consortia competing for the work.

Construction of the Tel Aviv Metro is planned to cost Shekels 150bn ($US 43.2bn), but this figure is expected to increase and may even double.

NTA has spent Shekels 400m so far this year on pre-planning and minor exploratory work. As construction commences it is budgeting to spend Shekels 1bn in 2023-24 and Shekels 8bn in 2025.

Legislation will be required both for construction and to provide further funding as the project progresses in stages.

One issue will be whether work will be permitted to take place on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. The municipality of Tel Aviv has no objection but other local councils are already demanding that no work should be done on the Sabbath.

Another local issue to contend with will be recruiting construction workers. Contractors will be free to bring in foreign workers, but this may create problems if they are perceived to be favoured over the local Palestinian population.

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