Train Service Returns Despite Surge in Coronavirus Cases

Passengers wearing face masks at the Tel Aviv Savidor Central Railway Station on Monday. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Intercity train service resumed across Israel on Monday after three months of closure, as the country continued reopening despite mounting coronavirus infection rates.

Trains were shut down on March 25 along with the rest of public transportation. While buses began running and are now back at full capacity, trains were kept shut. The scheduled reopening of the trains was pushed off time after time.

Under social distancing guidelines, passenger trains are being limited to a maximum of 500 riders each — half of the normal capacity — in order to prevent crowding. Travelers must book their places in advance by ordering new mandatory ride vouchers on the Israel Railways website.

The vouchers are not a replacement for tickets and travelers must still buy a stub or swipe their Rav Kav cards at the turnstiles. Passengers must also carry a valid ID that matches the one appearing on the voucher.

Israel Railways CEO Michael Maixner cautioned that if trains are more crowded than allowed, “we will have to reverse.”

“We prepared quickly, in accordance with the new plan approved by the Coronavirus Cabinet,” Maixner said.

Face masks must be worn at all times on the train and in the stations, and eating and drinking is forbidden during rides.

Passengers whose temperature is over 38 degrees Celsius will not be allowed into the stations, and workers will enforce social distancing in the waiting lines.

Maixner said that if the reopening goes smoothly, trains could operate in the future with 75% capacity.

As many people stayed away from the stations Monday, Transportation Minister Miri Regev said that “the travelers will come back in the end because there is no other way. They don’t have cars. These are students, families, elderly, who want to eventually go back to using the train.”

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