Families in Yerushalayim who had planned a Chol Hamoed outing this Pesach to the center of the country via the new high-speed railway between Yerushalayim and Tel Aviv will have to wait a bit more – perhaps until Chol Hamoed Sukkos. On Wednesday, Israel Railways informed the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that the opening of the line, set for March 30th, was likely to be delayed by as much as half a year.
Israel Railways said that from its point of view, the line would be ready on time – but that regulators had not provided all the licenses and permits necessary to run the line. “We have not yet received all the regulatory permits needed to operate the line,” Israel Railways told the TASE. “We estimate a six-month delay in the opening of the line, and that is if all the permits are indeed provided.”
The notice Wednesday came after a Tuesday night meeting between railway officials and Police Chief Roni Alsheich, in which railway officials presented the safety and rescue measures it planned to implement on the high-speed line. Apparently those measures were not sufficient – leading to the announcement Wednesday. Globes on Wednesday quoted engineers as saying that there were still safety issues with the line, and that if it opened at the announced time at the end of March, “a tragedy was very likely,” the engineers said. In a deeper investigation, Globes said that much of the work the railway claimed had been completed was actually still ongoing, and that the likelihood of its opening on time was very low.
Test trips that have been ongoing in recent months indicate that the predictions that the trip between Yerushalayim and Tel Aviv will take less than a half hour are accurate, with the electric train achieving speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph). The 28-minute trip will include stops at Ben Gurion Airport, Modiin and Sha’ar Hagay (where a large parking lot for commuters to Beit Shemesh will be set up).
According to the Transport Ministry, the line will include five kilometers of bridges, including the longest bridge in Israel, at a length of 1.2 kilometers. It is also the highest bridge, rising to some 90 meters off the ground. The successful traversing of this bridge by the 1,200-ton train is an excellent sign that the project is sound from an engineering point of view, the Ministry said in a statement, adding that each pass of a train over the bridge will enable it to “settle,” strengthening its pylons and making it more sturdy. Besides the highest bridge, the railway will include the country’s longest tunnel – 11.6 kilometers. In addition, the railway’s Yerushalayim terminal, which will be about 80 meters below ground, is one of the deepest commuter railway stations in the world.