Transportation Minister Israel Katz inside the electric locomotive that hauled test train on January 15, 2018.
(photo credit: TRANSPORATION MINISTRY)
The opening of the long-awaited high-speed rail line between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem has been postponed until the eve of Sukkot on September 23.
The new date is six months later than the original launch date of March 29, one day before Passover.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz cited safety concerns as the reason for the delay during a meeting of the Knesset’s State Control Committee on Monday.
“The railway management held a discussion with the operating company and the police and they did not approve the operation of the train for safety reasons,” Katz was quoted by Maariv
as saying. “I decided not to compromise safety, even at the cost of a momentary loss of popularity [for me].”
The postponement might not surprise Israelis, already battered by construction- induced traffic jams and years of project delays.
The rail line is the first of its kind in Israel, with construction costs totaling some NIS 7 billion ($2 billion). The high-speed rail is expected to considerably cut traffic congestion between the two cities and ease commutes, which now take about an hour by bus.
The trains are designed to make the 56-km. trip at up to 160 kph. Six trains will run each hour during rush hours in and out of a station next to Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station.
A State Comptroller’s Report from October 2017 found the March starting date to be optimistic. It warned that the train might not operate until December 2019 due to difficulties in electrifying railway lines.
The report also opposed plans to expedite construction by cutting regulatory corners, saying such measure could jeopardize safety and eventually raise costs.
A spokesman for the Transportation Ministry declined to comment.