An Israeli-Russian joint venture has won the latest chunk of work on Israel’s $1-billion high-speed rail line that will connect Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Minrav Engineering and Construction Ltd., Ashdod, and underground contractor Moscow Metrostroy won the estimated $130-million contract from project owner Israel Railways.

The contract, not yet officially awarded, will involve construction of two parallel 3.5-kilometer tunnels and other work. Site preparation is set to begin later this year, with tunneling to start within a year, officials say.

The project involves construction of 38 km of double track from Ben Gurion International Airport east of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “The scale of the tunneling and the size of the bridges on the new line are unprecedented in Israel,” says Uzi Cohen, planning director for Amy Matom Engineers and Consultants Ltd, Haifa, the project’s chief consultant. Work will require building 10 bridges and five sets of parallel tunnels, along with the removal of 4 million cu meters of earth. The project includes the construction of what will be Israel’s longest tunnel, 11.6 km in length, and its longest and highest bridge, which will be 1.25 km long and 90 m high. About 3 million passengers are expected to use the line after its scheduled completion in 2016. Work is currently five years behind schedule, largely due to environmental protests against certain route segments.