Seeking to reduce rail network overcrowding, Israel Railways has announced the start of a “suburban travel” pilot program, introducing train cars that enable standing-only travel during rush hour.
Seats and tables were dismantled from the lower floor of three double-decker train cars and replaced with folding seats and handles for safe standing. The adaptation will provide room for 20% more passengers per carriage, as well as quick entry and exit between the cars and the platform.
The new cars will operate starting Sunday on the Binyamina-Rehovot line, where the average passenger travel time is approximately 30 minutes. Passengers will be able to provide immediate feedback on the pilot program via an online form, accessible via a QR code on display in the carriages and at platforms.
Should the pilot test prove successful, Israel Railways said, additional cars will be converted to enable standing room only.
“Alongside our primary task of mass transportation between major metropolitan areas in Israel, the train carries out a mass transportation mission from suburbs to city centers, a function usually carried out by a metro or light rail,” Israel Railways said in a statement.
“We hope that this move, along with other steps currently being taken such as reinforcing northern line frequency and providing information concerning crowding on trains on our website and application, will help reduce crowding on these lines.”
Speaking in December ahead of leaving the company, former chief executive Shahar Ayalon said that Israel Railways is currently facing a shortage of approximately 150 train carriages to adequately fulfill the demand of the network, but does not have the resources at its disposal to order the necessary infrastructure.
Crowding caused by the shortage of carriages has been exacerbated by the diversion of infrastructure to the recently opened railway connecting Ben-Gurion Airport to Jerusalem.
The company announced on Monday that it would be constructing automatic bicycle-parking systems at four train stations as part of another pilot program.
Overground systems capable of holding 50 bicycles and scooters will be installed at the Beersheba North-University and Netanya train stations, and underground systems holding 200 bicycles and scooters will be constructed at the Tel Aviv-Savidor Center station and in Herzliya.
Approximately 5,500 passengers arrive daily at Israel’s train stations by bicycle, with some 4,500 taking their bicycles on board. An estimated 30% of those passengers start or end their journeys at the four selected stations.
Costing a reported NIS 20 million, the systems developed by Spanish company Biceberg and constructed locally by Parking38 are operated by a smartphone application that can store or retrieve bicycles within 30 seconds. Parking will be free for the first 12 hours, and then cost three shekels per hour.