Another Day, Another Delay: Israel Railways Cancels AM Trains to Yerushalayim

A test drive of the Yerushalayim-Tel Aviv high-speed train, last January. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

For the third day in a row, passengers on trains running between Yerushalayim and Modiin on the new high-speed rail lines experienced severe delays. Four trains that were set to leave in either direction during rush hour were cancelled, leaving passengers scrambling to figure out other ways to get to their destinations.

Tuesday’s delays, Israel Railways said in a statement, were attributed to electrical work being done on the track. The work was done overnight Monday, and was supposed to end early Tuesday morning, but it was not completed when the first trains were scheduled to run at 6:30 a.m. – hence the cancellations.

On Monday night, trains on the line experienced significant delays after one of the trains traveling to Yerushalayim got stuck in a tunnel. The delay was due to a malfunction in the engine. Another engine car was dispatched, and the train returned to Ben Gurion Airport, where passengers were put on buses to Yerushalayim.

On Sunday, 22 trains were canceled due to a series of issues, including infrastructure, track, signaling and other malfunctions. And last Tuesday, large numbers of trains were also canceled, when similar problems developed due to what appeared to be a water main explosion next to the tracks.

In its statement, Israel Railways apologized for the delays, saying that “the high-speed line to Yerushalayim is a mega-project, and one of the most complicated rail lines in the world to operate and service. We are currently testing the system, and it is natural that operation and infrastructure challenges will be uncovered.”

The high-speed rail line, when finally completed, will ferry passengers between Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim in under half an hour, with the electric train achieving speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph). Currently, the line terminates at Ben Gurion airport, as the segment between Tel Aviv and the airport is still under construction. The 28-minute trip will include stops at Ben Gurion Airport, Modiin, and Shaar Hagay (where a large parking lot for commuters from Beit Shemesh will be set up).

According to the Transport Ministry, the line includes 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 (295.2 feet) off the ground. Besides the highest bridge, the railway includes the country’s longest tunnel – 11.6 kilometers (7.2 miles). In addition, the railway’s Jerusalem terminus, which is about 80 meters below ground, is one of the deepest commuter railway stations in the world.

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