Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu laid the cornerstone Tuesday for a rail station in Netivot, the middle stop on an Ashkelon-Be’er Sheva line that promises to transport passengers between the two southern cities in under 50 minutes.
The new route, set to begin operating in 2015, will also include stops in Ofakim and Sderot. The line is one of several ongoing projects at Israel Railways, including the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem high-speed rail (slated for completion in 2017) and Tel Aviv-Bnei Darom (set to be ready in 2012).
Plans are also in the works for Kiryat Motzkin-Carmiel, Haifa-Beit She’an and Hod Hasharon-Herzliya lines, as well as an extension to the Tel Aviv-Modi’in line to reach Jerusalem’s International Convention Center (Binyanei HaUma).
Israel’s national rail carrier is struggling to rehabilitate its image after a spate of recent train accidents including a collision last week near Netanya that injured dozens and caused disruptions to weekend rail operation.
Last month a brake malfunction led to fire breaking out in a Tel Aviv-bound train from Nahariya, causing smoke emission but no injuries. In December, 120 people were hurt when a gas leak caused a fire on a train near Netanya, forcing some passengers to evacuate through windows.