"Safety is more important to me than momentary popularity. In the paratroopers, they taught me that rescuers come first," Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz said today in explaining his decision to postpone the date for commencing operation of the high-speed Tel Aviv-Jerusalem train, after having declared many times that the railway would go into action shortly before Passover.
The postponement followed last week's report by "Globes" that engineering work on the line was far from completion, and that safety and electrical engineers were warning that putting the train into operation on the official target date, before the necessary testing of its systems, was liable to result in an disaster.
In his first public comment on the postponement, Katz said that the announcement by Israel Railways to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) about a six-month delay in operating the line "was issued without my knowledge," adding, "This is unacceptable. I am the one who decides."
In a Knesset Finance Committee meeting today about the Ministry of Transport's budget, Katz said, "There were agencies, such as Israel Police and others, who said, 'We are not approving this safety plan that you have brought.' I could start partial operation of the railway with the contingent safety conditions, but when there is a doubt about safety and an important safety dialogue, and operation is partial, with the alternative of completing the safety aspect and operating the railway fully, my decision is to operate it fully."
Katz revealed that he would meet with Israel Railways executives next week and announce the new target date for full operation of the Jerusalem line along its full length (until Herzliya) by Rosh Hashanah, with four trains per hour in each direction. Trips from Jerusalem will be free of charge for three months. Katz's original plan was to operate only one track, and only until the Hagana railway station in Tel Aviv.
Israel Railways last week announced a six-month postponement for operation of the high-speed line, and attributed it to the need to meet the safety requirements of the police and the fire and rescue services.
A police spokesperson told "Globes," "The police are not the bottleneck preventing operation of the line. Israel Railways was incapable of meeting the timetable, even if the police and fire and rescue services imposed no requirements at all."
The agreement between Israel Railways' management and the police commissioner does not set a timetable for operating the railway line; it sets forth an order of instructions for allowing immediate operation of the line if Israel Railways meets the requirements in the first level.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on February 26, 2018
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