Train station inaugurated in rural southern town of Netivot

Minister Yisrael Katz was joined on his journey Sunday by Transportation Ministry director-general Uzi Yitzhaki, Netivot mayor Yechiel Zohar and Israel Railways CEO Boaz Zafrir.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (photo credit: Courtesy)
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Aiming to significantly shorten the travel time between the country’s southern periphery and center, a new railway station in the city of Netivot opened its doors on Sunday.
Located just about 15 kilometers east of Gaza and due south of Sderot, the station is part of a larger construction plan for a 60-km. railway line between the coastal city of Ashkelon and Beersheba – located eastward in the northern Negev Desert.
About a year ago, a station at Sderot opened as part of the project, while a station at Ofakim – about halfway between Netivot and Beersheba – is expected to be complete by year end, according to the Transportation Ministry.
“The train to Netivot brings truly good news to the residents of Netivot and the South,” Transportation Minister Israel Katz said during an inaugural train trip from the station Sunday morning.
“I fought to get this train off the ground and I feel a great sense of satisfaction.”
Katz was joined on his journey by the ministry’s Director-General Uzi Itzhaki, Netivot Mayor Yehiel Zohar and Israel Railways CEO Boaz Zafrir.
All in all, the estimated cost of the project to construct the line from Ashkelon to Beersheba is NIS 2.2 billion, according to the Transportation Ministry. The hope is that by extending the train route through this region, the railways can act as a springboard for infrastructural development in the region, Katz said.
In addition to the new stations at Sderot, Netivot and Ofakim, the project involves the construction of 15 railway bridges, three road bridges, four elevated sections, 11 agricultural crossings and 48 water-infrastructure crossings, the ministry said.
“Everyone who lives here understands well how significantly the train can contribute to the city,” Zohar said. “The development of the city has been massive following the news of the arrival of the train. Housing prices indeed will rise slightly, but we will certainly have a massive market and massive influx of people, and this is a dream of every city and every mayor.”
For the time being, Netivot residents will be eligible for 50-percent reductions on round-trip tickets for travel on the train, similar to the benefit Sderot residents and Sapir College students have received since the Sderot station’s opening.
When the Finance Ministry recently announced plans to cancel the perk, members of Sapir College’s student union protested, sending a letter about a week-and-a-half ago to both the transportation minister and the Finance Ministry director-general.
Without the critical discount, the students argued, the Sderot train station is at risk of turning into a “ghost station.”
In response, the Transportation Ministry said Finance Ministry officials “ordered Israel Railways to charge a higher price from the Sderot and Netivot stations,” despite the Transportation Ministry’s objections.
“The Transportation Ministry has appealed to the deputy attorney-general, in order to clarify and rule upon the issue,” the Transportation Ministry statement added.