A train runs parallel to the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
After the Environmental Protection Ministry called upon Israel Railways to curb air pollution at its Gush Dan area stations on Tuesday, the company has threatened to stop train movement altogether in the region.
“Because the railway does not intend to act contrary to the law, the operative meaning of the Environmental Protection Ministry’s decision is the immediate closure, completely or partially, of train lines crossing through Tel Aviv,” a statement from the firm said.
A ministry announcement on Tuesday warned of recurring air pollution problems at the Tel Aviv Hashalom and Bat Yam Yoseftal station platforms, where monitoring systems have recorded abnormally high levels of both fine respirable particles and nitrogen dioxide, from both the train cars and the locomotives. Citing concerns about public health, the ministry advised that vulnerable citizens, such as those with heart and lung diseases, the elderly, children and pregnant women avoid lingering on these platforms.
In addition, ministry officials said they have summoned Israel Railways executives to a hearing on the matter.
“The Environmental Protection Ministry considers vehicular air pollution to be one of the worse environmental threats to life and health of Israeli residents,” said Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin.
“As a reminder, every year 2,500 Israelis die prematurely as a result of pollution. Most of that pollution is caused by vehicles. Therefore, we consider very seriously the high air pollution levels found at the Hashalom and Yoseftal Train Stations, which threaten public health, and especially the health of vulnerable populations.”
The Clean Air Law requires that Israel Railways ensure that the operation of its trains does not result in excess air pollution, according to the ministry.
The ministry stressed that although its officials have been working with Israel Railways for years to reduce pollution at its stations, enforcement proceedings began when the company failed to implement adequate solutions.
“On one hand, it is our duty to warn the public and on the other hand, to fight with determination against Israel Railways, in order to find solutions to the pollution at these stations,” Elkin said. “Our lives and health are not hostages of any transportation company – regardless of how big and important it is.”
In response to the warnings, a statement from Israel Railways slammed the ministry – stressing that following such orders would require suspending train activity and cause upheaval among commuters.
“The Environmental Protection Ministry is working to stop the movement of the trains to and from Tel Aviv and to cause transportation chaos that has not been seen to such an extent for years,” the statement said. “Hundreds of thousands of passengers a day will be forced to give up train service because of the ministry’s guidelines, whose actual meaning is the cessation of train movement to and from the Gush Dan. The ministry’s decision could prompt transport chaos and the use of thousands of cars and buses instead of trains, which would bring about a significant increase in road dangers and a lack of reduction in air pollution.”
The Israel Railways statement argued that despite years of continuous professional dialogue between company executives and ministry officials, the ministry chose to issue an urgent summons to a hearing. The summons arrived even though the company has been “taking every means at its disposal” to find solutions to the air pollution problem both in Israel and abroad, the statement said.
Also underway is the train electrification project, which is expected to significantly reduce pollution levels, the company added.
“Israel Railways will work to convince the Environmental Protection Ministry that the national interest requires the continuation of train movement in parallel with cooperation between the parties to find a comprehensive solution to the issue for the good of the commuting public in Israel