Israel Railways considers underground Tel Aviv tracks


Laying the 26-kilometer tracks from Shefayim to Ben Gurion Airport will cost NIS 5 billion.

LBG Consulting Group, a UK firm hired to advise the Ministries of Finance and Transport and Israel Railways, has recommended that Israel Railways build two underground railway tracks in Tel Aviv. LBG wrote in its recommendations that the tracks were needed to meet the demand for railway rides, which is projected to hit 300 million a year by 2040 (the current annual number of rides is 53 million). The tracks in question will stretch from Shefayim to Ben Gurion Airport. Another track will be laid above ground. The cost of all the tracks is estimated at NIS 10 billion. Following the recommendation, Israel Railways is looking into the matter.

No one disputes that the public transportation system in Israel must undergo drastic changes in order to meet the demand in the coming 20 years. A steering committee was accordingly set up last year to devise a strategic plan for Israel Railways for 2040 in order to examine passenger demand and Israel Railways' future operating capacity. Israel Railways VP infrastructure development Reuven Kogan heads the team, which also includes Ministry of Finance Budget Department public transportation coordinator Alon Messer, Ministry of Transport traffic planning department senior manager Irit Sperber, and Ministry of Transport VP for infrastructure and transportation planning Keren Terner. The team also uses the services of LBG, which presented its recommendations last week.

Initial estimates are that the underground tracks will be 26 kilometers long and will accommodate up to 14 trains in each direction at peak hours. The new tracks are expected to begin in the Shefayim area, where they will hook up with the coastal tracks from Shefayim to Haifa. The new tracks will stretch under the Ayalon Highway from Shefayim, hook up with the Savidor train station in Tel Aviv and probably also the Hagana train station, and continue east in the direction of Ben Gurion Airport and the Ganot intersection. The work will cost an estimated NIS 5 billion.

Israel Railways has already instructed its planning department to go ahead with the engineering design, and to begin feasibility and statutory checks. Israel Railways stated today, "The company is looking decades ahead, and is already planning for the future. The main challenge of any railway network infrastructure is the bottleneck in the Ayalon corridor, and a solution for this artery will therefore release jams in the entire railway network."

What happened to the fourth railway track project?

Before Israel Railways can lay two underground tracks, it must first lay an elevated track along the Ayalon Highway, called the fourth track project. This project is being promoted statutorily by Netivei Israel - National Transport Infrastructure Company, but planning for the project has not yet been completed. It is believed that completing the project will take at least 10 years.

It has been clear for more than 16 years that a fourth track along the Ayalon Highway is needed. The Prime Minister and Ministers of Finance have realized this, and classified construction of the track as a national infrastructure project already in June 2007. Meanwhile, however, the project is being delayed because Netivei Israel has been unable to decide what to do about the Ayalon River, which passes close by the railway track. In order to build a fourth track, the problem of drainage from the river must be solved by either damming the river and creating a reservoir or rechanneling it through a drainage pipe to the sea near Jaffa. Netivei Israel estimates the cost of the work at NIS 4 billion, but more recent estimates are around NIS 5 billion.

Netivei Israel said in response, "The company has submitted a plan for the track to the Committee for National Infrastructure, which is due to discuss it in the coming months."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on April 13, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

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