Planes, trains and escalators: A ride on the new high-speed express

The train will go only as far as the airport for at least another six months, as the line from the airport to Tel Aviv is not yet electrified.

By SYBIL EHRLICH
September 20, 2018 19:19
3 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Katz on inaugural ride of Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high speed rail

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Israel Katz on inaugural ride of Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high speed rail, September 20, 2018. (photo credit: GPO)

The first train on the high-speed line from Jerusalem to Ben-Gurion Airport ran on Thursday, the “King David Line,” was inaugurated by a special train carrying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Israel Katz, as well as a large number of reporters and photographers.

The event was billed to start at 12:30 p.m., but participants were asked to be at the new Yitzhak Navon Station in Jerusalem at 10:30, for security reasons. We filed in through a back entrance, having first negotiated an unfinished parking lot and a temporary staircase up to the station itself.

After passing through security, we descended the first of four very long escalators to a large atrium where there were light refreshments, at 11 a.m. when nobody wanted them. Then it was down the other three equally long escalators. (The elevators were not in use for the inaugural event.) The descent into the bowels of the earth took almost as long as the train ride – while everyone waited for the guests of honor to arrive.

We amused ourselves by watching the electronic departure board, which showed the train leaving at 11:15 (that was obviously a figment of the imagination since Netanyahu wasn’t expected until 12:30), updated every few minutes as time passed. We were bored and hungry, and the food was three levels up. Poor organization there!

At 80 meters below street level, the Yitzhak Navon Station is one of the five deepest in the world. This is for topographical reasons. Trains enter Jerusalem at a lower level since it is impossible for them to climb such a steep incline. And thus passengers descend to the trains rather than the trains ascending to the people.

Netanyahu arrived at 12:32, and delivered a short speech. But since the acoustics are terrible (it is after all a railway station deep underground and not a conference center), it was impossible to hear what he said.

The train, comprising standard double-decker coaches hauled by an electric locomotive, departed at 12:58. The prime minister and transportation minister sat on the upper deck, while reporters and photographers were relegated to the lower deck, although it was possible to go up in small groups to ask questions.

For those who preferred to enjoy the view from the window, it was interesting to see the scenery from a very unusual angle. Photographers climbed over each other to get the best views of the barren hills around Modi’in.

Most of the journey, which took 25 minutes, was at 120 to 130 km/h, although the train’s maximum speed is 160 km/h. Approximately 10 minutes were in tunnels, of which there are eight, most of them short. The train took just under five minutes to go through the longest tunnel.

We arrived at Platform 1 of Ben-Gurion Airport station at 1:23 p.m. The station, which has a single island platform, had a barrier separating the special train from the crowds waiting for normal transportation on Platform 2. After waiting in the station for eight minutes – we were not allowed to alight, the train returned to Jerusalem.

Scheduled trains will begin service on September 25, every half-hour in each direction.

Because of expected high demand, not least because rides will be free for the first three months, it will be possible to travel on the train only with a pre-ordered voucher, for a specific date and time, and pre-ordered vouchers are available only with personal Rav-Kav smartcards. Vouchers can be ordered through the Israel Railways website or app. At the time of writing, this is available only in Hebrew. A personal Rav-Kav entitles the holder to up to three vouchers. Children from age two need a voucher.

Passengers wanting to travel from other parts of the country via Ben-Gurion Airport to Jerusalem on the new line will need to pay for tickets in the normal way for the journey from their start point to Ben-Gurion Airport.

The train will go only as far as the airport for at least another six months, as the line from the airport to Tel Aviv is not yet electrified.


Related Content

August 20, 2019
Netanyahu talks 'faith' with Kiev Jews

By HERB KEINON

Cookie Settings