Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz ride an Israel Railways train.
(photo credit: ELIYAHU HERSHKOVITZ/POOL)
Israel Railways is to undergo a major overhaul in the next few years, including a conversion to electric engines and the building of new stations.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz this week approved the landmark NIS 28.3 billion, four-year budget for the project – the largest amount ever allocated to Israel Railways.
Converting the entire rail system to run on electricity entails new rail cars, tracks and infrastructure, for which a budget of NIS 12b. has been allocated.
The ministry told The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday that the conversion will be done in several stages, with some lines ready before 2020 and the rest later.
Aside from the system’s electrification, the budget allots NIS 3.7b. to replace the old signaling and communication systems, which the ministry says will increase the system’s capacity as well.
At a cost of NIS 3.4b., new maintenance complexes will be developed and built, while existing complexes will be converted to handle the electric-powered trains.
Some NIS 700 million from the budget will be used for adding new lines to the system and expanding the station at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Among the new lines are spurs connecting the Rishon Lezion Harishonim Station to the Rishon Lezion Moshe Dayan and Paatei Modi’in stations.
An additional line in Modi’in will be built to take passengers to the railway’s high-speed train system, which is estimated to start running between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in March 2018.
Outside Lod, new tracks will also be set to reduce the amount of trains that have to cut through the city itself.
Three completely new train stations will be built in Netanya, Kfar Menahem and Mazkeret Batya, at a cost of some NIS 153m.
For NIS 245m., a number of existing stations will undergo renovations, a park-and-ride lot will be built and the company is planning a number of projects to improve customer service.
According to the ministry, the plans come on top of the NIS 355m. that has been spent in the past several years on the system and security upgrades.
Katz said that the switch to electric-powered trains from the current power is expected to increase the frequency and speed of trains as well as the “precision and trustworthiness” of the system.
If all goes according to plan, the ministry said that the amount of trains running on a daily basis could jump from 450 to 860 and bring the system to its goal of transporting 70 million passengers per year.