At the beginning of the decade, Israel Railways appeared to be a ray of light in the state of transportation in Israel. Railways were in demand, and attracted passengers who did not usually use public transportation. With the development of routes and the opening of stations, the number railway passengers rose by 80% in 2007-2010. The State Comptroller's report, however, shows that Israel Railways was simply unprepared to this demand. The forecasts that it sent to the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Finance predicted 25% less railway passenger traffic than the actual numbers.
As a result of a lack of planning, Israel Railways was late in ordering carriages, and the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Finance approved only some of those orders. Israel Railways reported an urgent need for 168 carriages in 2013, but only 141 were approved, and only 60 of those are in use. The urgent need of carriages resulted in an order without a tender from Bombardier, Israel Railways' main carriages supplier, based on old tenders from the beginning of the preceding decade. The delay in ordering carriages means that when the high-speed route to Jerusalem goes into full operation in 2021, its occupancy rate at peak hours will be 120%.
Railway tracks are also lacking. As of now, the only way to improve passenger service is to turn direct routes into local routes, which makes the journey take longer. For example, trains from Beer Sheva to Tel Aviv are also stopping at Holon stations, thereby wasting the time of passengers from Beer Sheva previously served by the direct train. In the future, the limited capacity of the Ayalon artery will make it impossible to expand service on many routes. Both the installation of a new signals system, and even a new division of signals segments, which makes it possible to better utilize the existing tracks, are being delayed, mainly due to Israel Railways' management problems. The State Comptroller cites the prolonged delays in adding a fourth track on the crowded Ayalon artery, which currently makes it impossible to increase the frequency of trains.
The great congestion on the trains and tracks is increasing the likelihood of delays and creating a problem of trains being canceled. The number canceled trains soared 473% to 10,441 in 2015-2017. The State Comptroller notes the growing congestion in railway stations and the lack of preparation for it. It is taking passengers longer to get on and off trains because of the congestion on the railway platforms, causing delays in the trains leaving the stations.
Getting to the stations is not easy. Despite various efforts at coordination between Israel Railways and the bus transportation operators, there is no efficient bus service to many railway stations, and bus times are often not synchronized with train schedules. Most railway stations have a severe shortage of parking spaces for cars, which leads drivers to park in forbidden and dangerous places.
The Ministry of Transport said in response, "The ministry has been leading an unprecedented revolution for a decade by building a nationwide network of railway tracks reaching all over Israel. It has increased the number of railway passengers threefold or more. A number of years ago, the minister of transport led the biggest reform ever in a government company in Israel at Israel Railways. The company now requires further reorganization, which Israel Railways' board of directors is leading. The fourth track along the Ayalon Highway is a very difficult project that Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz began, after many years of stagnation. Its planning is proceeding rapidly."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 13, 2019
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