(photo credit: Illustrative photo: Peter Tobia/Philadelphia Inqui)
After years of delays and extreme budgetary inflation, the rapid train line
connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem looks to be on track.
In a Knesset State
Control Committee meeting Wednesday, Transportation Ministry Director-General
Yaakov Ganot said that work on the track was going full steam ahead and promised
that the project would be completed by 2017. Now several MKs are interested in
building an additional station in Mevaseret Zion, risking further
Cheers at light rail test run over J'lems’s Strings Bridge
Editorial: Speed up the trains
The rapid train project, whose initial planning began in 1995,
was originally scheduled for completion in 2008 at a cost of NIS 3.8 billion.
Today, the project is estimated to cost upwards of NIS 6b.
In a progress
report to the committee, Israel Railways general manager Yitzhak Harel said that
contractors were proceeding with works along the entire track and that
excavations for the Jerusalem station, to be situated 80 meters underground, at
the entrance to the city near the central bus station, had reached the 40-meter
Harel warned, however, that if work on the electricity system
powering the track didn’t commence soon, the project could be delayed
“The train needs to operate on electricity and if the power
lines don’t start getting connected soon, at the beginning of 2018 there will be
a track, stations and tunnels – but the train won’t operate because of all the
objections to the power lines,” said Harel.
The Society for the
Protection of Nature in Israel’s representative at the meeting, Avraham Shaked,
said that his organization does not oppose the installation of power lines, and
that it was clear to them that a track running on such an incline required
The project’s problems have already been featured in two
State Comptroller Reports, in 2005 and 2009; both put the blame for the delays
on the Transportation Ministry, the Finance Ministry and Israel Railways,
claiming that all the bodies involved had approved the project before sufficient
inspections and analyses of possible problems were conducted, and without
waiting for all the construction permits to be authorized.
the most recent report, one of the main causes for delay in construction was
Israel Railways’ failure to conduct a proper environmental impact study, leading
to legal disputes with environmental groups over the route of the
In the course of the meeting, several MKs, including committee
chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima), Rachel Adato (Kadima) and Zevulun Orlev (Habayit
Hayehudi), suggested building another station along the route, in the suburb of
Hasson said that the train had to be a growth engine for
the city and warned against sending the residents of Mevaseret Zion to the
coastal region for their shopping, business and entertainment needs instead of
to the capital.
“Just like the railroad from Tel Aviv to Haifa developed
Haifa and the cities on the route, so the line to Jerusalem must take into
account the surrounding cities and provide a fast and convenient substitute for
using private vehicles,” said Hasson.
Eliyahu Hasson, a former
director-general of the Transportation Ministry and a Mevaseret Zion city
councilman, claimed there had been many mistakes in the planning of the line,
among them the fact that there was only one station in Jerusalem.
that both Haifa and Tel Aviv, which have smaller populations, have four stations
In response Ganot said that there are two additional stations
planned for the capital, and that he would present the minister with the
residents’ request that the Jerusalem light rail be extended to Mevaseret
Harel said that the construction of a station for the fast train in
Mevaseret was impossible because of the slope of the track.
on Ganot and Harel to notify the committee of any body that creates obstacles or
further delays the project, which he described as being of national importance.