25 October 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tested Israel’s new high-speed train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in September but much work remains before it is fully operational.

Netanyahu joined Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on the ride from a newly built train station in Jerusalem’s city centre to Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv.

That portion of the route was due to open in September, but trains were not yet able to reach Tel Aviv itself or other locations.

Travelling at speeds up to 160kmh, the ride from central Jerusalem to the airport will take 21 minutes – half the time it takes to drive there in normal traffic, though congestion often makes the trip much longer.

There is also an older train that runs from Jerusalem to the airport, but that journey takes some two hours and requires a change.

Netanyahu spoke briefly before the ride, saying it was a “historic day” and the beginning of a “new era”.

The new train was due to open in March, but work to prepare the line has been slower than expected and its launch repeatedly delayed.

The project dates back many years, having first been planned in the 1990s, with an original opening date of 2008.

The new line includes 40 kilometres of tunnels and eight bridges, with a small part of it controversially passing through the occupied West Bank.

Companies involved in the project include Canadian firm Bombardier, Spain’s Semi and France’s Alstom.

Israel also wants to extend the line to include a Western[Buraq] Wall station, which would be another provocation and considered part of its Judaization plans for the City.

Katz said  the new line was cause for “celebration” for Jerusalem.

“Now, more than ever, when there are people trying to challenge and question the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem and ownership of it, we’re connecting Jerusalem,” he said.

ADAPTED from: Channel News Asia