After 65 years the Valley railway line is reopening: Israel's Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz took an inaugural journey on the new line between Haifa and Beit Shean, in which NIS 4 billion has been invested.
The new 60 kilometer line will have five stations - Haifa, Kfar Yehoshua-Yokneam, Migdal Ha'Emek-Kfar Barukh, Afula and Beit Shean. Two new stations will be added in the future at Haifa Bay and Nesher. The journey will take 50 minutes.
Scheduled services will begin on October 16 on the eve of the Sukkot holiday and travel on the line will be free of charge until November 4. For the following two years there will be a 50% discount of passenger fares from all stations except Haifa.
Israel Railways CEO Boaz Tzafrir said that the Valley Railway was operating using electricity, which is quieter, cheaper and cleaner than on other lines.
In the future, the line will be extended eastwards to the Sheikh Hussein bridge and border terminal with Jordan and will link up with the Jordanian railway system. The plan is for cargo trains to transport goods between Europe and Jordan via Haifa Port and the Valley Railway. A goods depot is being built near Kibbutz Sde Nahum west of Beit Shean.
Katz said, "We are talking about a real revolution that will increase the value of real estate in these towns and expand employment and housing options for residents. He added that the cargo rail link from Haifa Port will reduce the number of trucks on the roads and cargo rail traffic along the coastal line.
However, the high cost of the line has been criticized by many who consider it to be inefficient use of financial resources for a region that does not suffer heavy road traffic while the potential number of rail passengers does not justify the expense.
The original Valley Railway was built in 1905 by the Ottoman Turks and linked Haifa with Damascus via Tzemach. The line fell into disuse after the establishment of Israel in 1948 and was used occasionally for tourism and transporting troops until its final closure in 1951.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 29, 2016
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