Light rail in Jerusalem 311.
(photo credit: Sybil Erlich)
After more than four years of construction and ample amounts of both domestic
and international criticism, the Jerusalem Light Rail set off on its first
official test run Monday morning, successfully cruising along nearly three
kilometers of track from French Hill to the capital’s Rehov Shivtei Yisrael and
While the long-awaited rail system will not be making commercial
runs until April, Monday’s trial ride was lauded by politicians and rail
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Jerusalem Mayor
Nir Barkat and Yair Naveh, the CEO of the transportation consortium CityPass –
which has been building and will operate the rail system’s first line – all had
front row seats for the maiden voyage.
Speaking to a crowd of reporters
in front of the train at the Shivtei Yisrael stop, Katz explained that the light
rail would serve as a strengthening factor for the city, while acknowledging the
numerous hardships the track work had created for Jerusalem residents since it
began in 2006.
“Jerusalemites have suffered over recent years, but there
is light at the end of the tunnel,” Katz said.
“And we intend to invest
further, significant sums for the additional development of the train, in the
opening up of the entrance to Jerusalem, and the development of a railway from
Jerusalem to Tel Aviv,” Katz added.
Barkat echoed Katz’s comments,
telling reporters, “The suffering endured by residents of the city has been hard
“But we have succeeded in motivating cooperation between all of
the necessary bodies and the train will get moving soon,” he
“Its inception will only speed things up and streamline the
management of the city in a more efficient way.”
The shiny and sleek new
cars – each of which has 64 seats but can hold upwards of 200 passengers – are
fully air-conditioned, equipped with digital signs to announce upcoming stops
and can travel at a maximum speed of 80 kph.
The light rail will also
have an automated “smart ticketing” system that will allow passengers to present
pre-paid, magnetic cards upon entering each station, before they board the train
Included in the light rail’s Line One – expected to be
operational in April – will be 23 permanent stations along the 14 kilometer
route, extending from Pisgat Ze’ev to Mount Herzl.
The train will stop at
each station for 20 seconds while passengers get on or off.
advisor for the light rail, Shmuel Elgrabli, who was also on hand for Monday’s
test run, detailed the rail’s expected, upcoming developments and described how
they would affect public transportation in the capital.
date for the opening of the railway’s Line One is April 7, 2011,” Elgrabli told
The Jerusalem Post.
“With that first line, we will also introduce six new
express bus lines that will go across the city,” he said.
That section of
the city’s transportation plan is a “rapid transit” system that will accompany
the light rail, Elgrabli explained.
“There will 150 new buses for the six
lines and at peak hours, those buses will run every six to seven minutes,” he
Overall, Elgrabli said that the new public transportation plans for
the city would eliminate what he termed the “Jerusalem spaghetti” of snarled
traffic jams and long travel times the capital’s drivers have become accustomed
to as the city has grown over time.
“With this new plan, Jerusalemites
will become part of the new family of modern transportation that is seen today
across Europe,” he said.
“And Jerusalem will become one of the best
cities in the country with regards to public transportation.”