Israel Railways has agreed to purchase â‚¬900 million worth of single-level rail cars from Siemens over the next 10 years, outbidding French railcar producer Alstom and Montreal-based Bombardier in a tender, Israel Railways said Wednesday. "Against the backdrop of Israel Railways' surge of development, the agreement signed is of immense importance for the well-being of railway users," said Israel Railways CEO Ofer Linczewski. "The significant growth in the amount of passenger trains available to us will help reduce crowding inside the trains, increase frequency [of service], and improve the level of punctuality." Initially, Israel Railways will purchase 86 passenger cars - more than a quarter of which are equipped for passengers with disabilities - for NIS 700m., doubling the system's current passenger rolling stock and allowing Israel Railways to retire some of its older equipment. Israel Railways will then have an option to purchase up to 585 additional cars for more than NIS 4 billion, bringing the total value of the deal to NIS 4.95b. Siemens may also provide maintenance equipment for the fleet, either alone or as part of a joint venture. The first batch of new cars will begin carrying passengers in August 2007. Additionally, the cars purchased from Siemens will be able to run on electric lines with electric locomotives, allowing the national inter-urban rail operator to pursue its goal of electrifying rail lines. All current locomotives are powered by diesel carried on each train. The electrified system will allow the locomotives to be fed energy through relay towers, reducing both noise and air pollution, and allowing the train to accelerate and slow down faster. The current five-year rail development plan includes an initial elecrification phase covering 250 kilometers of rail lines in the center of the country - including the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem express line set to open in 2010 - valued at NIS 1.6b., presently in tender. "In order to meet the government's goal of opening new lines and providing service to some 60 million passengers annually, to the end of the five-year plan, additional funds of about NIS 2.5m. are needed, towards purchasing many more trains in the coming years," said Moshe Leon, chairman of Israel Railways' board of directors.