Mofaz: Road safety is top priority

Former Defense Minister kicks off his new position with tours of air, rail.

Israel's newly inaugurated transportation minister, Shaul Mofaz, was further initiated into his position Tuesday after spending the morning with Israel Airports Authority Director Gabi Ofir and top security personnel at Ben-Gurion Airport's Terminal 3. While he delighted in examining the state-of-the-art security equipment at the airport - not too dissimilar from what he'd got used to in his previous role as defense minister - Mofaz said that his number one priority was to return safety to Israel's roads. "There are issues of security and safety in all areas of transportation in Israel," said Mofaz, adding that as a former defense minister he felt fully qualified to bring his experiences of protecting people to the new job. During the tour of the terminal, Mofaz's spokeswoman Shiri Eden told The Jerusalem Post that "stopping fatal traffic accidents, improving the quality of the train service and encouraging an open skies policy for Israel are Mofaz's top priorities, in that order." "While I was on the train yesterday, I spent time reading the reports about road safety, and [I] plan to address this serious issue over the next few weeks," said Mofaz, adding that the reformed National Road Safety Authority, outlined in last year's Sheinin Committee recommendations, would be launched on January 1. When asked about the importance and implementation of speed cameras throughout Israel, Mofaz said: "Cameras are not the most important aspect of fighting the war on the roads, but it is one of the plans that we hope to get moving on soon." While at the airport, Mofaz was greatly impressed by the high level of security checks for passengers and amused his entourage by insisting on having his fingertips scanned for the fast border control check-in service. Mofaz also told reporters that he planned to meet with the IAA's workers' committee soon. Workers at the airport had planned to strike Tuesday but called off their action to meet with Mofaz. "I plan to tell them that I am a man of action," said Mofaz. "I will go over all their issues, but I will also tell them that their job is to provide a service to the citizens of Israel and to all those arriving here from abroad." Mofaz's trip to the airport followed a tour on Monday of Israel's rail service. During the tour, Mofaz inspected the planned route for the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem high-speed railway project. Despite recent calls by the Finance Ministry to reevaluate the project due to growing budgetary concerns, Mofaz promised that it would go ahead as originally planned. Even though Israel Railways estimated that the total cost of the track would be around NIS 4 billion, experts working on the line suggest that it could run as high as NIS 7b. The 56-km journey from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which includes a branch line to Modi'in, is expected to take 28 minutes, with the track ending at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.