Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz threatened to shut down Israel Railways if it doesn't implement a new plan to improve safety, speaking at a press conference Sunday morning.
The plan, whose basic principles were unveiled at the press conference, follows a string of accidents and technical problems that have plagued Israel's national train carrier in recent months. Katz made it very clear just how serious he is about the reforms, saying: If the safety shortcomings are not improved, "I'll shut down the trains."
Last week, the basic elements of Katz's safety program were leaked, including increased monitoring and enforcement of railroad activity, toughening the criteria for recruiting new employees (for example, by forcing train conductors to undergo extensive training and professional testing), regular testing of train cars, among other elements.
"We're not going to fire workers," Katz clarified, but "we cannot be run like a market."
Katz threatened that if the new safety plan is not implemented, "the train[s] will be shut down on August 17 until it is organized from scratch." He added, "If we reach a situation in which the trains are interrupted - we'll require further decisions. I am adopting the program's principles and the train management, beginning tomorrow, will sit with representatives of the workers and hear their comments."
At the end of the day, the transportation minister said, workers' comments will be considered in the effort to increase safety.