China Railway Tunnel Group, with an Israeli partner, has won an $800-million contract to build the tunnels and underground stations in the western section of the first line of the Tel Aviv light rail system.

It is the largest tender for the project’s Red Line, awarded by NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System Ltd.

The joint venture of Shikun U’Binui subsidiary Solel Boneh and the Chinese firm will manage digging of two parallel 5-kilometer long tunnels that constitute the main part of the underground section of the first line. Completion of the 22-km long line that runs from Petah Tikva northeast of the city to Bat Yam in the southwest is scheduled for 2022. 

The project, which has been delayed for years over various bureaucratic and financing issues. will be done with tunnel boring machines. The tunnel section includes seven underground stations and 22 security escape tunnels. 

Work is set to begin in the coming weeks.

The joint venture beat the bids submitted by Italy’s Ghella and from the joint venture of Israel’s Danya Cebus and France’s Vinci.