The first-ever electric passenger train left Jerusalem's Yitzhak Navon Station this morning with 400 passengers on board. The Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast rail link was launched today although for the time being trains are only running between Jerusalem and Ben Gurion airport, where passengers must change to a diesel train to continue their journey.
Estimates are that it will be another 3-6 months before electrification is completed on the section of line between Ben Gurion airport and Tel Aviv's Haganah station. When completed the train journey between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will take 28 minutes.
Israel Railways only obtained safety approval for the line two days ago after Israel Police and the Fire and Rescue Services completed an emergency drill deep in one of the tunnels near Jerusalem. But safety approval is temporary until a range of wrinkles are ironed out.
There is concern that the huge political pressures to get the line operating may have resulted in safety being compromised. However Israel Railways head of fire protection Haim Tavas said, "The trains are very safe by both European and American standards. We carried out live simulations of major fires and systems worked well and fully."
He added, "We have accompanied this project since 2006 and have been continually testing the project both in the tunnels and on the bridges and everything passed as required. On Thursday, during a drill all types of faults were found such as doors that didn't close as they should or fire detectors that didn't work and so we told the railway people to repair these defects but all the critical issues have been fully repaired."
For the time being there is only one train in each direction per hour with the frequency increasing to every 15 minutes when the line is fully operational. Passengers can only travel on the trains by obtaining a voucher in advance via the Internet or phone. Jerusalem residents can travel for free.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 25, 2018
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