Israel’s largest two cities Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are separated by a distance of only 40 miles, yet the current transport links mean that travelling this distance will take two hours by car or 90 minutes by train. The journey is separated by large mountains and deep valleys. This is why a new train line, scheduled to be fully operational by 2018, will be vital in lowering journey times between the business focussed Tel Aviv, and the nation's more traditional capital Jerusalem. At a cost of $2 billion, the high speed link will aim to not only lower the journey time by rail, but also reduce the road trafffic congestion on this route. After a decade of planning, engineers have carefully constructed a route which will have 40 kilometres of tunnels, eight bridges over deep valleys, two underpasses and span over 56 km of electrified double track.
This is a major feat for Israel’s engineering history with these being it’s longest and deepest bridges and tunnels ever built. The project additionally includes one of the deepest train stations in the world, constructed 80 metres underground which will have also the capacity to function as a vast bomb shelter to accommodate thousands of people if required.
Importantly for commuters, the train will reach speeds of up to 160 km/h so the travel time will be 30 minutes between Jerusalem from Tel Aviv HaHagana Railway Station and 20 minutes to Jerusalem from Ben Gurion Airport Railway Station. This development, is seen as a culmination of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who kickstarted many major transport projects.
Whilst there is a current train line operating between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the journey time can take as long as 1 hour 30 minutes which can be a burden for commuters. Despite this, the demand is still there with 7,500 people using this train service everyday. Israel’s public transport is mainly operated by buses rather than metro systems and trains comprise of only 6% of public transport compared to 30-69% in other OECD countries. This demonstrates the potential for growth of rail and metro in Israel as a public transport provider.
The rail link will be fully operational for the public in March 2018 and it is hoped that it will bridge the gap between two of the biggest Israeli economic centres and cater for 50,000 commuters a day. Double-decker trains will each hold around 1,700 passengers. Boaz Zafrir, the Chief Executive of Israel Railways has stated that the trains will depart four times every hour, and transport 10 million passengers a year.
The train line has continued to be supported and constructed by: the Israeli firm Danya Cebus, alongside the Israeli Minrav in association with the Russian company Moscow MetroStory. Israeli firm Shapir Civil & Marine Engineering Ltd. in partnership with the Italian engineering firm Impresa Pizzarotti & C. S.p.A, Hofrey Hasharon Ltd., the German holding company Max Bögl and Malaysian based company Dana Engineering.
Despite the battles that this high-speed train link has had to overcome financially, technically and politically, Transport Minister Yisreal Katz believes "We are doing in Israel what was done 200 years ago in the United States, after World War Two in Europe and in recent decades in Asia… The main aim is to connect Jerusalem to the rest of the country."
In a further statement, Katz mentioned that the high-speed rail line will boost Jerusalem's economy and encourage the interconnectivity between cities. He hopes that some people will move to Jerusalem to launch new businesses whilst other Tel Avivians may choose to relocate to Jerusalem to avoid the high rental costs and high humidity.
Here are some other stories that might interest you: