Crowding on Israel Railways is reaching a peak, especially on the route with the biggest demand - the Haifa-Tel Aviv railway. Trains are running behind schedule, passengers are being left at the stations, and stewards are taking passengers off trains. Some passengers have had to stand for an hour or more or travel in extremely crowded conditions.
The new Israel Railways timetable that went into effect on September 15 includes cutbacks and eliminates direct routes along the coast. For example, there are now three instead of four trains an hour between Tel Aviv and the north. As reported in "Globes," the reason for the cutbacks is a severe shortage of any railway's basic equipment - carriages. No fewer than 60 carriages were transferred from other routes to the new Tel Aviv-Jerusalem after it opened, even though the opening date for the new line was known in advance and had been postponed several times.
Due to disputes between the Ministry of Finance and Israel Railways, the missing carriages were ordered very late. Production of the carriages takes a year, so the first new carriages will arrive in March 2019. A senior transportation sector source previously explained to "Globes," "In order to launch the new high-speed route to Jerusalem, they have to take carriages away from existing routes. The blanket is too short - you pull it over your head and the legs are exposed."
Passengers began experiencing the shortage last week, when the economy resumed full activity with the end of the holidays. "Globes" heard reports yesterday that the Tel Aviv-Karmeil railway had been half an hour late, and passengers to Karmiel had been asked to get on the train to Nahariya and change trains at Kiryat Motzkin, meaning that passengers of trains to both Nahariya and Karmiel were put on the same train.
"Crowding has become impossible. Reduction in the number of trains, combined with the increase in the number of passengers, is creating a nightmare travel experience. If we add to this the fact that the trains are running late, and not just at peak times, we get transportation chaos in all of its glory. No one is thinking about the passengers, only about public ceremonies for opening new lines," says Eyal Tal, a regular passenger on the Tel Aviv-Haifa route and chairperson of the "Railway Wonders" social group.
Passengers are also complaining about termination of the option to reserve seats for additional payment, an option that was eliminated on coastal routes when the new timetable took effect. Now even passengers willing to pay more in order to avoid crowding can no longer do so.
"With all of the railway cutbacks and cancelations, does anyone have an explanation whey they canceled reserved seats in the morning? I can't think of any logical explanation whatsoever for it," says Ran Ben-Ari, a passenger on the Haifa-Tel Aviv route. "The platform at the Hof Hacarmel railway station has reverted to the very bad days before reserved seating, and it's simply unbearable."
Israel Railways answered his question by saying, "A train running at 150% of passenger capacity cannot afford empty reserved seats."
Road congestion in Israel is the highest of any developed country, but less than 10% of public transportation users travel by train. This is no surprise - crowding on trains is quite high, and the situation will only get worse, due to delays in ordering the necessary equipment.
The launching of the new route to Jerusalem has only aggravated the situation. It cannot be ruled out that some passengers will soon go back to using private cars, thereby adding to road congestion in Israel.
Israel Railways said in response, "The decision to cut one train on the Nahariya route was taken in order operate the high-speed route to Jerusalem, after consideration of all the alternatives."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 14, 2018
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