Livni slams new train fees for soldiers

Opposition leader says eliminating free train rides for soldiers from 6 to 9 a.m. on Sundays infringes on their rights.

Israrail train Bombardier 311 (photo credit: Bombardier)
Israrail train Bombardier 311
(photo credit: Bombardier)
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) slammed on Saturday a new program that bans soldiers from riding the train for free on Sunday mornings, saying Kadima would pass a law prohibiting such changes.
"After throwing women to the back of the bus they're throwing soldiers off of the train," Livni said in a written statement.
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The opposition leader said it was a soldier's "right" and the state's "duty" to provide free rail-transportation for soldiers, and threw her support behind planned demonstrations for Sunday morning. The policy is aimed at reducing the number of passengers on Israel Railway's busiest day of the week
"Kadima MKs have started to sign a law that would ensure [free transportation for soldiers] if the government does not steer from its course," she said.
Starting Sunday, soldiers will not be able to ride trains for free on Sundays between 6 and 9 a.m. During the blackout hours they will be offered free bus rides between train stations in Tel Aviv and north and to their bases throughout the country.
A senior IDF officer said on Thursday that the military agreed to the change in an effort to improve the quality of service for civilians who pack into the trains on Sunday.
“Soldiers will instead ride in comfortable, convenient buses that will take them directly to their bases,” the officer said.
On Sunday mornings train stations across the country are jammed with soldiers making their way to their bases after weekend leave. One of those soldiers, Noa, who serves in the Caracal Battalion in the Southern Command, said the changes would dramatically increase the time it took her to go from her home in Moshav Ramot on the Golan Heights to her base near the Egyptian border.
Noa said that with the train she has to leave home at 4 a.m. and make her way to Haifa where she boards an express train to Beersheba, and arrives at her base around 2 p.m. If she has to take buses, not only will it be much less comfortable, but she will probably arrive an hour or two later.
“We are soldiers serving our country in the army; we deserve to be able to ride the train in the morning,” Noa said.
On the other hand, Mark Weiss, the father of a seaman serving at a naval base outside Haifa, said the change would not have a major effect on his son.
“He can still ride the shuttle bus, so we’ll have to wait and see how it works out. It may take a bit longer if there’s traffic, but it’s not like now he’ll have to be paying out of his own pocket.”
Weiss added: “In the worst-case scenario, he may have to leave a bit earlier in the morning on Sundays.”
Yaakov Katz and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.