HIGH SPEED trains 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
My first memory of Israel was that waft of humid air, with the strong sun that
hit you as you deplaned and walked down those steps onto the tarmac. Many used
to “kiss” the ground, as they had arrived in the Holy Land. While this
experience replaced landings by boat, it still captured that first waft, sun and
land; with the modern Terminal 3 of Ben-Gurion International Airport, most young
Jews no longer have this experience. I would classify this as a definite loss,
albeit a necessary one for a modern state with a large tourism
On my second trip to Israel, I walked out of the terminal and
got into a shared “Nesher” cab and we sped off to Jerusalem... eventually. It
was not the Nesher of today, it was one of those banged-up minivans you
associate with developing countries, except there were as many people in our
Nesher cab as seats. As we approached the Old City of Jerusalem, a car swerved
in front of us and the light went red, at which point the driver slammed the
brakes. Sufficed it to say the brakes were not up to standard, but just good
enough that, combined with the driver’s reflexes, we did not rear-end the car.
However, I had smacked my head right into the plastic pane between the
passengers and the driver, since there was no working seat-belt. Memory
Much as with my first memory of Israel, young Jews coming to
Israel soon may not have such experiences; after 2017, Nesher could be a
completely reduced service.
Phoning the company to book a spot to the
airport, waiting for the phone call from the Nesher driver, who proceeded to
shout at you, waiting in the airport for 45 minutes for the cab to fill up,
taking two hours to get to south Jerusalem, only for the driver to drop you off
on a corner and say, “Walk down there to your house, I don’t want to drive
there,” will all be consigned to the dustbin of history. The next generation
will enjoy a high-speed rail line that will operate between Jerusalem and Tel
Aviv via the airport.
Here is the economics of it: currently, you have
three options to get to the airport (excluding having a friend drive you).
Option one is Nesher, as discussed above.
Option two is to take a regular
taxi – about four times the price, but the quickest way. Option three is to take
a bus to the Central Bus Station, then take bus No. 947 to the airport, and
switch once again to the bus that takes you to the terminal. This option
involves a lot of bag hauling and can be very slow (especially since the 947
runs every half an hour) but is the cheapest alternative.
The drawback of
the 947, for those that aren’t familiar with it, is that one can wait well over
30 minutes for the bus and then be faced with a full bus that you cannot board.
Given these options, Nesher is the “value for money” option, so most of us use
The “high speed” line will change all this. It will be quicker, more
convenient, and cheaper than Nesher. A quick bit of mathematics on a napkin: at
current day prices, the cost of a taxi to the CBS from south Jerusalem is NIS 40
and the cost of the train will be NIS 20-25 – more convenient, more flexible,
and potentially lower than the current Nesher fees of NIS 64. Very few people
will need Nesher, which translates into two routes for the Nesher company: go
out of business or a reduced service that will still capture some of the hotel
market and will maintain their almost complete control of the nighttime
The latter option is more far more likely, but comes at a cost –
with a reduced service comes higher fees for those that use it. Therefore, we
can view the high-speed line as a wealth transferring mechanism between those
that travel to the airport at night to those that travel to it during the
Of course, the flights that take off in the middle of the night are
cheaper and it is less affluent people who tend to choose that option, which
only makes matters worse.
Further, what about the Nesher drivers who will
lose their livelihood? Not all of them can be taxi drivers in Jerusalem, and do
we really want them driving throughout the day, with their exceptional driving
and manners towards passengers? So I am left with the questions: where is the
petition for the small business? Where are the protests at the imbalance in
prices? Some things are worth “paying” for. I, on the other hand, want to
propose a possible “Israeli” solution and call for people to think about
petitioning on behalf of Nesher that the rail line be diverted away from the
airport, and rather collect people at the Park-&-Ride terminus outside of
Tel Aviv. It will be a better service to the citizens of Israel and will mean
the continual thriving of an institutionalized company. However, one important
step will be to find out why a train station wasn’t planned for the
Park-&-Ride terminus in the first place.
All these classic first
memories of Israel are being wiped away and the next generation will truly miss
out on all the things that gave developing Israel its character. Of course, I
missed out on so many as well, but that’s for the generation before me to write
about. In the meantime, there are the environmentalists who are fighting for the
trees’ right to survive along the high-speed line’s route, and now it’s time for
people to stand up and fight for Nesher’s survival as well.
do so? In short – no; if only Nesher had provided a better service. Then again,
that’s all part of little Israel’s character. So bring on the high-speed line of
2017 and the future first memories of Israel – well at least “Israeli
2017.”The author, a strategy and business analyst who holds a BSc in
Economics from the London School of Economics, made aliya a few years ago.