The National Planning and Building Commission for National infrastructures, headed by Avigdor Yitzhaki, approved on Monday the plan for a fourth railway track along the Ayalon channel in Tel Aviv. This plan is important for the development of public transportation in Israel, because it will increase the railway's capacity to 40 trains an hour, compared with 28 at present. The project, which is scheduled for completion in 2025, will cost NIS 5.5 billion, including NIS 2.2 billion for drainage work.
The plan was designed to relieve the bottleneck in the Ayalon corridor, through which all of the main railway lines in Israel run: from north to south, eastward (Modi'in, and Jerusalem in the near future), and trains going to Tel Aviv. There are currently only three tracks on this section, resulting in a bottleneck that restricts the frequency of trains. This has a negative impact on passenger service, including delays, exceptional loads on long-standing routes, and inability to provide complete service on new routes.
Until this essential project is carried out, the possibility of increasing railway passenger traffic is limited, because capacity is already near the limit. Passengers are expected to begin experiencing the capacity problem when the new high-speed train to Jerusalem is opened, which will be during the Sukkot holiday, according to the most recent statement by Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz. The frequency of trains on this route will therefore be limited to two per hour, including at peak hours.
Only 3% of all trips in Israel are by railway, a lower proportion than in other developed countries. Given the unbearable road congestion, Israel Railways therefore has significant growth potential, assuming adequate infrastructure, of course, i.e. railroad tracks. The need for additional passenger tracks on the Ayalon section of the railway has already been under discussion for decades, but significant progress has been made only in the past two years. Among other things, given the trenchant public criticism of the lack of railway infrastructure, it cannot be ruled out by the time this difficult project is realized, it will already be inadequate to provide a proper solution for the growing number of railway passengers. The need for a fifth and sixth track on the route has been under discussion for years, but as of now, beyond writing reports, no plan for this has even been drawn up.
The fourth railway track will run between the Halacha Interchange and the Kibbutz Galuyot Interchange, and will include the addition of a third and fourth track from the Kibbutz Galuyot Interchange to the southern Lod railway station. In order to lay a fourth track in the the Ayalon River channel, the river must be diverted, and since this will cause floods in the winter, flood areas will be created to provide a drainage solution, some in the area of the Mikve Israel agricultural school (in accordance with the approved outline plan). It will also be necessary to expropriate 60 dunam (15 acres) of agricultural land for the new track, and the recently passed Economic Arrangements Law provides for this.
According to the Committee for National Infrastructure, the previously proposed solutions for floods were formulated for a supplementary plan that is an essential condition for the project. These include use of the Natuf, Modi'in, and Nesher mines and the Mishmar Ayalon reservoir for collecting and channeling water, creating pools in Ariel Sharon Park north of Highway 1, and flooding areas on the Mikve Israel site south of the highway. The Committee for National Infrastructure also says that preliminary work on the Sharon Park reservoir has already begun under the approved plan for the park.
Committee for National Infrastructure planner Nava Alinksy-Redai noted when the decision was taken, “The project is of national importance and will make a great contribution to the railway traffic system in Israel in general, and especially in the Greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area. In addition to the plan's importance for topnotch public transportation in Israel, it also provides a solution for drainage in the Ayalon.”
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 11, 2018
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