MKs slam government over unfinished express train

The express train service between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem would reduce travel time between the cities to 28 minutes.

israel train 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
israel train 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The government's transportation policy is "a giant failure" because of delays in the proposed ultra-modern, express train service between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, MKs said Wednesday at a meeting of the Knesset Economics Committee. Comments by Prime Minister's Office director-general Ra'anan Dinur that the rail-line budget was not at the top of the government's list of priorities had prompted MKs Dov Henin (Hadash), Colette Avital (Labor), Ran Cohen (Meretz) and Reuven Rivlin (Likud) to schedule a discussion. The rail line, which would reduce travel time between the cities to 28 minutes, has no expected completion date at the moment. "All considerations support the establishment of an express train service between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem - environmental considerations, health considerations and social considerations," Henin said. "I am calling on the government to publicly state exactly what the plans for the rail line are, and I am calling on the public to join the struggle for convenient, quick and efficient transportation between the two largest cities in Israel." Avital said the train was necessary to prevent the isolation of Jerusalem. "The train service to Jerusalem will promote tourism and employment, and it is necessary for the economic survival of our capital city," she said. A PMO spokesperson said Dinur's comments about the future of the project did not reflect government policy and had only been made to demonstrate that financial priorities must be set. "No decision to cancel the the train service has been made," the spokesperson said, adding that any such decision would only be made after the Finance and Transportation ministries produced a joint report and presented it to the government. A Finance Ministry representative said funding for the rail line had been frozen because expenses had exceeded the budget by NIS 9 billion. The two ministries are in the advanced stages of discussion on how to keep to the original NIS 29b. budget, in the hope that the project will be completed. But Henin said financial considerations should not prevent the service from opening, as it was potentially of great use to Israelis traveling between the cities. "The train service is ultimately a profitable endeavor," he said. "We can't all be hostages of the Finance Ministry." Only the final section of the rail line is not complete; there is already service from Tel Aviv to Ben-Gurion Airport and to Modi'in. The current train ride between the two cities takes nearly two hours, with passengers required to switch trains in Beit Shemesh.