After countless delays, the Jerusalem fast rail link is set to begin operations today, Globes reports.
The first train will leave Jerusalem's Navon station (opposite Binyanei Ha'Uma) at 12.30 pm on what is being billed as a special test run rather than the official launch. The train won't make it as far as Tel Aviv's Haganah Station as planned but only as far as Ben Gurion airport because electrification on the section between the airport and Tel Aviv has not been completed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz will attend the ceremony in Jerusalem as the firs train leaves the station.
"Globes" also revealed last week that Israel Railways has not yet received the required safety approval from the Independent Safety Assessor (ISA) international institute.
Optimistic estimates say it will take another 3-6 months before the line is fully operational. In the first stage there will be only one train per hour between Jerusalem and Ben Gurion airport station where passengers will change to a diesel train. When fully operational there will be one train every 15 minutes.
For the time being Jerusalem residents can travel for free on the train, if they book in advance by Internet. However, no booking is yet available on the Internet, so it is unclear when services will actually begin.
The cost of the high-speed train to Jerusalem, the Ministry of Transport's largest-ever project, is estimated at NIS 7 billion. The line is designed to connect Israel's capital to the Greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area and the central region and relieve traffic congestion. Travel time from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the last stop on the line, is meant to be 28 minutes.
The project was first started in 2001, but following a series of managerial missteps, the completion date was postponed from 2008 to 2017 and then to March 2018. The line is 57 kilometers long, including 32 kilometers on a new segment from Kfar Daniel to Jerusalem containing nine bridges, and five tunnels totaling 19 kilometers.