At a festive ceremony Monday, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz inaugurated the new “Valley Railroad” line, a revival of the historic route between Beit She’an and Haifa. The new line, which passes through Afula, Kfar Yehoshua, Migdal Ha’emek and Nesher, is expected to open up much of the currently-rural lower Galilee to suburban settlement, providing a direct route to jobs in Haifa and Tel Aviv.
Katz, along with Israel Railway officials and the mayor of Migdal Ha’emek, Eli Barda, traveled in the inaugural run of the train, between Migdal Ha’emek and Beit She’an. Accompanying them were old-time residents of the area, who had last traveled the route in the early 1950s. The old Valley Rail was closed down in 1956. The new line, which includes two tracks, replaces the old single track that had been shut down since then. The line will go into general use before Sukkos.
Katz said that the railway was having the desired effect even before regular service on the line started. “Already we see a wave of construction in the cities and towns along the rail line. We are working to develop these cities as well, building industrial and high-tech zones, as we did in the south in Netivot, Sderot, and Ofakim when we built the rail line there.”
Katz said that he expected the line to extend beyond Beit She’an. “We intend for the line to continue on through to Jordan and the rest of the Arab world,” said Katz. Currently, hundreds of trucks transfer goods between Israel and Jordan, and Katz hopes that some of those shipments will be made by train. A cargo depot is planned, and initial talks have been conducted with Jordan on the idea, he said.
“This will be a bridge of peace,” Katz added. “I believe that in a very short period of time it will become clear that the investment we made here was worthwhile. I know there some who doubted this, but I believe they will be proven wrong.”