Experts Warn: Yerushalayim-Tel Aviv High-Speed Rail Unsafe for Scheduled Opening

high speed rail
Israeli Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz during a test run of the Yerushalayim-Tel Aviv high-speed train on January 16. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

If the new high-speed train between Yerushalayim and Tel Aviv opens on schedule in late March, the results could be disastrous, Globes reported on Monday, citing the warnings of engineers and safety experts.

According to their assessments, made in recent audit reports and oral comments, as matters stand, the line will not be safe to begin operations until August.

“There is no reasonable chance that the project will be completed on time without breaching the safety rules,” a senior electrical engineer associated with the project told was quoted as saying on Monday.

“Even if they finish the work on time, they have to test all the systems for several months. I have accompanied several overseas projects, and I have never seen such a thing before, maybe only in developing countries like India, where people travel on the roofs of the railway cars. The Ministry of Transport is pressing very hard to finish the project on time, so the railway doesn’t dare say that it won’t be ready on time.”

To date, track is still being laid, the communications systems in the tunnels are only partly functional, electrification work is incomplete, and essential coordination checks between the various systems have not yet been carried out.

Several months of testing are crucial to ensure the safe and efficient coordination of the electrical system and the command and control system. “If the cables touching the train are not well synchronized down to the millimeter, there is a risk of collapse — including during a journey,” the engineer explained.

Furthermore, Globes wrote, there are indications “that safety rules are being ignored in the feverish effort to finish the project on time, while the State Comptroller has already warned in his recent report that the rush to finish the project is liable to endanger human life.”

Israel Railways rejected the criticisms, saying in response: “The plan for the transition to electrical propulsion and laying the high-speed railway line to Yerushalayim was approved by the planning authorities, and is being carried out carefully, one step at a time, as necessary with close cooperation between all the relevant agencies and complete dedication by all parties. Great efforts are being made to finish the work and open the line as planned, provided that the safety aspects are satisfactory and ensure the passengers’ safety.”

About a month ago, Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz took reporters on an initial test run on the line, and told them March 30 would be opening day.

Last week, the ministry’s deputy director general Yaakov Blitstein announced that starting on March 29, it will be possible to travel from Yerushalayim to Tel Aviv and back in 30 minutes each way.