A 43 kilometre line from Haifa to Nazareth has just been approved by Israel’s National Planning and Building Committee. The train-tram railway in the North of country was first proposed in 2007; ten years on, passengers are a step closer to travelling from Hafia to Lev HaMifratz Railway Station. It is expected to take engineers six years to complete 17 stations, bridges, tunnels, railway carriages and power plants. The cost of construction is likely to reach ILS 6.4 billion with the intention to serve 12,000 passengers a day. Israel have seen a huge spike in rail demand since heavy rail investment improved passenger experience. The state-owned Israel Railways have seen an increase from 2.5 million customers per year in 1990, to 53 million in 2015. Whilst this urban light rail service is just one of many new projects in the country, it will become vital to improve commuter travelling inbetween the regions.
32 electrified trains will operate on the line, travelling at speeds of up to 100km/h on the interurban sections, compared with 60km/h for ordinary light rail trains. Each train will consist of a single 52m long railway car capable of carrying 300 passengers with room for 170 to stand. It will become the second lightrail service and the first urban tram operation in the country.
The project will be overseen by Cross Israel Highway Company and supervised by a ministerial committee headed by the Ministry for Transport director general Keren Terner, which will report to the Minister for Transport and Intelligence, Yisrael Katz. This latest network plan will be centred in Israel's densely populated coastal plain. The inter-city route will start at the Lev HaMifratz Railway Station in Haifa, continue through northern Kiryat Ata and go along Highway 79 from Somekh Interchange to the end of the highway in Reineh. It will end in Ma'aleh Yitzhak Street in Nazareth Illit, where the urban section will start. Then the urban section will continue through Nazareth Illit by way of Ma'aleh Yitzhak, and terminate in central Nazareth.
Katz welcomed the National Infrastructure Committee's decision, saying that the light rail, which was declared a "national project", would serve residents all along the route to the Greater Haifa area. He added that this important venture would strengthen Haifa as the capital of northern Israel.
Excluding light rail, the Israeli rail network consists of 1,001km (622 miles) of track, and is undergoing constant expansion. All of the lines are standard gauge and as of 2016 the heavy rail network is in the initial stages of an electrification programme. Many of the rail routes in Israel date back to before the establishment of the state which achieved independence in 1948. Rail infrastructure was considered less important than road infrastructure during the state's early years, and except for the construction of the coastal railway in the early 1950s, the network saw little investment until the late 1980s.
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