Jerusalem rail link likely to open only partially next month

Israel Railways electric car Photo: PR

Passengers will need to wait at Ben Gurion airport while electric and diesel engines are switched before proceeding, sources inform "Globes."

Israel Railways looks likely to recommend to Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz that the fast rail link be only partially opened on the eve of the Sukkot holiday next month (September 23) between Jerusalem and Ben Gurion airport, sources inform "Globes." The reason is that infrastructure work is yet to be completed on the section between Ben Gurion airport and Tel Aviv's Haganah station on what will be Israel's first electrified railway line.

A senior professional source working on the project has told "Globes" that, "In spite of everything they want a picture of an opening on the eve of the holiday but the dream of half an hour from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during Sukkot is over. He added that the Ministry of Transport is considering what can be done in light of the situation to minimize the damage from the media point of view. In his estimation, it will be another three to four months before the line is ready to be fully operational.

While the work on the Tel Aviv - Ben Gurion airport section of the railway line is nearly complete on the section between the airport and Haganah station basic infrastructure work remains to be done including setting up the electrification poles, gantries and wires. Work is hampered on this section because it is along tracks that already operate making ongoing work impossible and requiring the line to be closed for short periods so that parts of the work can be carried out.

In order to meet the timetables declared by the Minister of Transport, Israel Railways management decided after consultations at the end of last week that there is no alternative but to recommend to Yisrael Katz that the line be only partly opened along the section that is ready.

This option includes traveling along the electrified line from Jerusalem's new Binyanei Ha'Uma station at the western entrance to the city to Ben Gurion airport, where the electric locomotive will changed for a diesel one - an operation taking 10-15 minutes if there are no problems.

It is normal for such major infrastructure projects to take longer than scheduled worldwide. However, the Jerusalem - Tel Aviv rail link has been plagued by problems that have delayed it by decades and are exceptional for a developed country.

The project began in 2001 and after a series of management errors was due to be completed in 2008.Of the 57 kilometers on the line, 32 kilometers is new tracks from the junction to Modi'in by the Anava Interchange on Road 1. The new section includes nine bridges spanning three kilometers and five tunnels extending a total distance of 19 kilometers.

In its final stages, the rail link - Israel Railways flagship project - was first meant to open by the end of 2017, then by the Passover holiday in March 2018. The March grand opening was only postponed at a few weeks' notice because of safety requirements demanded by the police and fire and rescue services over which Israel Railways said it had no power. But as "Globes' is now revealing, engineering work carried out under the supervision of Israel Railways is still far from complete.

The Jerusalem - Tel Aviv rail link, the largest project being carried out by the Ministry of Transport, is costing an estimated NIS 7 billion. The new line will connect the capital with Greater Tel Aviv and central Israel and hopefully reduce traffic congestion between the cities. The journey from Tel Aviv's Haganah station to Jerusalem's Binyanei Ha'Uma station, which is 80 meters underground, will take less than 30 minutes.

Israel Railways said, "Israel Railways is working with determination to complete the fast rail link and to begin providing services to Jerusalem's residents on the date that was set."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 22, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Israel Railways electric car Photo: PR
Israel Railways electric car Photo: PR
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