Israel’s first rail line in Yehudah and Shomron is planned for the city of Ariel, Walla News reported. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has authorized construction of a light rail line between the city and Petach Tikvah. In a statement, Katz’s office confirmed the plan, saying that it will “enable us to significantly reduce the heavy traffic in the area and save Israelis millions of hours a year of waiting in traffic. The rail line will make it easier for Ariel residents to get to work or shopping, quickly and safely.”
The plan, which must be approved by various planning commissions, is still in the planning stages, with several alternatives between Ariel and Petach Tikvah under consideration. One would terminate at the Israel Railways Rosh Ha’ayin train station, giving commuters access to rail service to Tel Aviv and the rest of the country. The second would run to the Segula industrial zone, which has shopping, industry, and offices and provides travel connections to other work areas in the Tel Aviv area, and then to the center of the city.
The line would include stops in towns along the way, including Etz Efraim, Elkana and Oranit. Also being planned is an eastern spur, to the Tapuach Junction, ten kilometers east of Ariel, but that is unlikely to be built until later on. The NIS 4 billion project is set for completion in 2025, according to Katz’s plan.
The line would not only serve the 40,000 or so residents of Western Shomron who live in towns along Road 5, the route the line will follow – 20,000 of whom live in Ariel itself – but also some 15,000 students who commute to Ariel for study at the city’s university. “Ariel is a central city of the Shomron district,” said Ariel Mayor Ariel Eliyahu. “I congratulate Minister Katz for his plan.”
Currently, over 160 buses transport people to and from Ariel daily, with as many as 40 buses operating during rush hour. Currently there are 16,000 students at Ariel University, a number that is expected to grow to 21,600 by 2030. Over 7,000 people work in the Barkan Industrial Zone, next to Ariel – many of them commuting from the Tel Aviv area – and that number is expected to grow to over 9,000 by the end of the decade, according to the Transportation Ministry.