The high-speed train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem made its first test run on Tuesday, carrying Transportation Minister Israel Katz and a large number of excited press photographers and reporters.The day’s event began at Moshav Mishmar Ayalon, from where everyone was taken by minibus shuttle to the railway track, adjacent to Route 1 near Latrun. Soon after Katz arrived, the star of the show made its appearance – a brand-new electric locomotive hauling standard double-decker coaches.Katz remarked that this was a historic run, and stressed the importance of linking Jerusalem to the rest of the country by high-speed train. The route is to be called the King David Line, in homage to the founder of the city of Jerusalem and to emphasize the connection of the Jewish people to Israel’s capital.The minister promised that the line will open on the eve of Passover this year (March 30), even though the route is not yet complete. Initially trains will run from Jerusalem via Ben-Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv Hahagana. For the first three months travel on the line will be free with a Rav- Kav smartcard. Passengers boarding at the new Navon station in Jerusalem (between the central bus station and the Jerusalem International Convention Center) will enjoy free travel to anywhere in the country.
It will take several months to complete the necessary infrastructure to allow the electric trains to continue to Herzliya. After the initial three months of free travel there will be a 50% discount on fares until everything is finished.The test ride was not long enough to allow the train to reach its normal cruising speed of 160 km/h, since we went only about 5 kilometers, heading eastward. We entered the 11-km.-long tunnel, waited in the tunnel for a few minutes, and then went back to the start point. The ride was smooth and uneventful, apart from the obvious excitement at the novelty of riding on an electric train in Israel (with the exception of the Jerusalem Light Rail there are no electric trains operating in the country).After eight years of planning and construction work, the King David Line is a welcome addition to the country’s transportation infrastructure, and it is hoped that with a journey time of around 28 minutes between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv more people will be encouraged to leave their cars at home, preferring the state-of-the-art, 21st-century railway.