High-speed railway to Jerusalem

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The bridge over the Valley of Ayalon, possibly the most recognizable landmark of the project

The high-speed railway to Jerusalem (also Plan A1 and Railway 29) is a railway line that will connect the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in Israel. It has been under construction in stages since 2001, with service set to commence in March 2018.[1][2][3] It will be the first high-speed rail in Israel by definition (although it will employ regular locomotives) and will serve as the main rail link between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, complementing the old Jaffa–Jerusalem railway. The railway will span about 56 km of electrified double track, costing approximately NIS 7 billion[4] (about US$2 billion) due to the extensive bridging and tunneling required along the mountainous route. The design speed is 160 km/h[5] with a projected travel time of approximately 28 minutes to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv HaHagana Railway Station and 20 minutes to Jerusalem from Ben Gurion Airport Railway Station.


Map of the actual route (A1) and other proposed routes

After the suspension of service from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on the old Jaffa–Jerusalem line in 1998 due to the poor track state, an urgent need arose to create a rail link from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Between 2000 and 2001, several alternatives were proposed:[6]

  • Plans S and S1 – minor repairs of the old single-track route (S), or one that also includes a few short tunnels and curve straightening (S1).
  • Plans G and G1 – a massive repair of the old route, straightening all the curves by excavating numerous long tunnels along the route: 4–6 km of tunnels in G and 16 km in G1. G1 was meant to continue into central Jerusalem and terminate in an underground station at Independence Park.[7]
  • Plans B, B1, B2, M and M1 – construction of a new line from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem via Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut within or near Road 443.
  • Plans A and A1 – construction of a new line between the cities nearby Highway 1, with a branch to Modi'in. These plans were recommended by the bodies that originally published them (A in 1994 and A1 in 1997 and 2000).[8]

Plans to build a line adjacent to Road 443 were discarded immediately, due to its being inside the West Bank. The Municipality of Jerusalem supported Plan G1,[7] while Israel Railways supported Plan S as a quick deployment plan, followed by A1. On June 13, 2001, Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon chose to proceed with Israel Railways' plan.[9] One of the reasons was environmentalists' opposition to G1, due to the route passing through the middle of a nature reserve. Plan B2 was used for the branch to Modi'in, which was completed in 2008. This section of railway is part of a longer future line that will eventually extend from Modi'in to Rishon LeZion along right-of-way reserved for it during the construction of Highway 431.

Following plan S rehabilitation, trains using the existing railway reach southern Jerusalem in about 80 minutes from Tel Aviv. The expected travel time from Tel Aviv to central Jerusalem on the new high speed railway will be approximately 30 minutes.[2]


Construction began in 2001 and was divided into multiple sections:

  • Tel Aviv – Ben Gurion Airport (western part of Railway 27) – the line begins approximately 6 km southeast of Tel Aviv's HaHagana Railway Station, where it branches off from the Tel Aviv – Lod railway through a tunnel under the northern set of lanes of Highway 1 and the northern set of tracks of the Tel Aviv – Lod railway, at a point located between the Ganot and Shafirim interchanges, and from there connects to Ben Gurion's Terminal 3. Construction was completed in 2004 and regular service to the airport started in October of that year.
  • Ben Gurion Airport – Kfar Daniel (eastern part of Railway 27) – from terminal 3 the line continues to the southeast, passing over a 550 m bridge over Highway 1, then crosses over Highway 40 and the Eastern Railway, proceeds to another bridge over Highway 443 and continues towards the Anava Interchange where it branches off into Modi'in through a series of bridges and tunnels. The line also connects with the Eastern Railway near the Lod Interchange providing a connection between the airport and the Lod Railway Station to the south. Construction started in 2004 and ended in 2007.
  • Kfar Daniel – Latrun (Section A) – includes a 1.2 km railway bridge, the longest in Israel (completed in 2008).[citation needed] This section was built by Danya Cebus and completed in 2011, at a cost of NIS 250 million.[10]
  • Latrun – Sha'ar HaGai (Section B) – includes a 3.5 km tunnel under Canada Park, the tender for which was awarded in July 2010. Excavation of the tunnel by TBM began in February 2012. The section is slated to be completed in 2015. It is being constructed by the Israeli construction firm Minrav in association with the Russian company Moscow MetroStroy at a cost of NIS 560 million.[10] Tunnel excavation started on February 6, 2012 with one TBM. Each TBM costs NIS 100 million (not including NIS 100 million in supplementary equipment) and weighs about 1,800 tons. It is expected to excavate 20 m each day.[11]
  • Sha'ar HaGai and Mevaseret Zion (Section C) – the tender was awarded in September 2009 and preliminary site work began November 2009 with expected overall completion in 2014–2016.[10][12][13] By far the most complicated part of the project, it involves two bridges and several tunnels, one of which, tunnel 3, will be the longest in Israel. This tunnel will be composed of a pair of parallel tunnels, each 9.2 m wide and 11.6 km in length, three quarters of which will be bored using two TBMs working simultaneously from the west and the remainder bored conventionally from the east. The companies performing this work are the Israeli firm Shapir Civil & Marine Engineering Ltd. in partnership with the Italian engineering firm Impresa Pizzarotti & C. S.p.A.[14] Conventional boring of tunnel 3 from east to west started in March 2012 while TBM excavation from west to east started in September 2012[15] and were completed in October 2014.
  • Mevaseret Zion – Jerusalem Binyanei HaUma Railway Station, Jerusalem (Section D) – includes two bridges, two parallel single-track tunnels 800–900 meters in length, and a 2.9 kilometre tunnel. Completion is estimated to take four years.[12] The tender for construction was awarded in the fall of 2009[citation needed] to Hofrey Hasharon Ltd. and the German holding company Max Bögl. The estimated cost is NIS 640 million,[10] not including bridge 10, which will cost an additional NIS 150 million and will be based on the design of the Črni Kal Viaduct in Slovenia. This section is supervised by Dana Engineering.[citation needed]

Construction status[edit]

As of October 2014, significant portions of the project have been completed, including most of the bridges and all the tunnels' basic structure and concrete lining. At the same time, Israel Railways was in the process of selecting a contractor to construct the concrete slab and ballastless track inside the tunnels, as well as the provision and installation of communications, mechanical, signaling and fire-prevention systems. In 2015 Israel Railways is expected to select a company to perform the electrification of the line. Still under construction are the massive bridge 10, as are parts of the HaUma terminal station in Jerusalem.

Bridges and tunnels[edit]

Below is a breakdown of the tunnels, bridges and underpasses found along the route.

Name Location Intersection Type Length Status
Shafirim Interchange Under Road 412 Underpass Completed
Between Hemed and Tzafria Under Road 4404 Underpass Completed
Bridge 1 Ben Gurion Interchange Above Highway 1 Bridge 550–600 m Completed
Between Lod Interchange and Lod Bridge Junction Over the Eastern Railway and Highway 40 Bridge Completed
East of Ginaton Junction Over Road 443 Bridge Completed
Daniel Interchange Over Highway 6 Bridge Completed
Bridge 4 Near Sha'alvim Over entrance road to Sha'alvim Bridge 120 m Completed
Bridge 5 Near Sha'alvim Bridge 180 m Completed
Bridge 6 Valley of Ajalon Over Highway 3 and the valley Bridge 1,200–1,250 m
(40 m tall)
Tunnel 1 Canada Park Under the park Tunnel (TBM) 2 x 3.5 km Completed[16]
Bridge 7 South of Mevo Horon Bridge 80 m Completed
Tunnel 2 Near Nataf Tunnel
(25% C&C, 75% NATM)
2 x 1,250 m Completed
Bridge 8[17] West of Nataf Over Yitla Stream Bridge 150 m Completed
Tunnel 3 Bab al-Wad, Abu Ghosh Under Mount HaRu'ah, Mount HaHagana, Abu Ghosh Tunnel
(75% TBM, 25% NATM)
2 x 11.6 km Completed
Bridge 9[18] Mevaseret Zion Bridge 255 m Completed
Tunnel 3a Mevaseret Zion Tunnel (NATM) 2 x 850 m Completed
Bridge 10 Mevaseret Zion Bridge 975 m
(90 m tall)
Under construction
Tunnel 4 Jerusalem—from near Ginot Saharov to Binyanei HaUma[19] Under Lifta Tunnel (NATM) 2.9 km Completed
Ayalon valley bridge (Bridge 1)

Difficulties and controversies[edit]

Financial difficulties[edit]

Due to the extremely high cost of the project, it faced financial difficulties from the start, despite being Israel Railways' flagship project. The initial cost was estimated at NIS 2.8 bln., although after a re-evaluation in 2008, it rose to about NIS 6 bln, and required NIS 2 bln. more to be invested by the Israeli government.[20] This has caused a significant delay in starting the tunneling stage of the project pending the evaluation by the Ministry of Transport, which eventually showed that, while the costs rose sharply, forecast demand rose sharply as well. The ministry further decided to indefinitely postpone implementing the plans for a future link from the railway to Modi'in (B2) east to Jerusalem.[21] On December 2, 2008 the Israeli cabinet instructed Israel Railways to continue with the project despite the higher estimate and the Ministry of Finance to allocate the additional NIS 3 bln coverage necessary to proceed with construction.[citation needed] By 2010, the cost had risen to NIS 6.9 bln.[10]

Shapir Engineering, which won the tender to build Section C between Sha'ar HaGai and Mevasseret Zion, was forced to delay the project by two years because Israel Railways issued the tender before the necessary permits were procured from the relevant government authorities. The issue was only resolved in summer 2009. Shapir suffered financial losses because of this, and sued Israel Railways for NIS 500 million, a sum that will be added to the project's overall cost if the courts side with Shapir.[10]

Administrative disputes and tender controversies[edit]

Israel Railways published a tender for supervising the constructions of sections B and C, which stipulated that only companies with experience overseeing projects of NIS 1 bln or more could participate. This caused controversy because only the company Dana Engineering actually had such experience in Israel. The companies Eldad Spivak and A. Epstein joined into a holding company in order to compete in the tender, which they won.[10]

However, Israel Railways appointed Dan Ari, a former executive in Dana Engineering, as responsible for the entire project, and disputes between Spivak and Epstein and Ari led to the holding company's resignation from the project. They were replaced by Dana Engineering. In late 2010, the railways decided to create a new administration for the project, leaving Dan Ari out of the picture.[10]

Dirt dumpage and engineering problems[edit]

A notable stumbling block, still unresolved as of January 2008, is the issue of where to put the excess dirt dug up in the tunnels. Temporary mounds have been created, but this method, aside from hurting the environment, will be insufficient for the main tunnel (Tunnel 3).[22] Israel Railways has also come to odds with the engineering company, Ami Mtom, responsible for the project involving additional payments to be made due to changes made to the original design of the railway, which is likely to further delay progress.[23] Additional dirt will be dumped in a new landfill on a site next to the Sha'ar HaGai interchange between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.[24]

The project has come under fire for two consecutive tunnel collapses in Tunnel 3a in January and March 2011. Both incidents ended without casualties.[10]

Yitla Stream[edit]

One of the main environmental issues with the project, and a source of opposition from green organizations, is the railway's passage through the Yitla Stream, a national park and Biblical location mentioned in the Book of Joshua. The greens' campaign was led by Ze'ev HaCohen from the Parks Authority and Avraham Shaked from the Society for the Protection of Nature (SPNI), who proposed an alternate design that would have replaced tunnels 2 and 3 with a single, combined longer and deeper tunnel that would pass under the stream, based on the opinion of the German tunneling expert Alfred Haack.[17] According to them, their proposal, opposed by Israel Railways, would have saved money in the long run.

The main points of contention with Israel Railways' proposed design were a 150 m rail bridge (Bridge 8) over the stream, and a 200 m paved access road that will be created to aid the construction work.[25] While Israel Railways and the Ministry of Finance claimed to oppose the longer combined tunnel proposal on financial and construction-time related reasons, Globes columnist Moshe Lichtman argued that the opposition was based on a combination of ego and the unwillingness, in principle, to change construction plans at the last minute.[24] Nevertheless, in March 2009 the Jerusalem area regional infrastructure planning commission recommended against the environmentalists' plan and choose to proceed with Israel Railways' original two-tunnel plan. The plan was then forwarded to the National infrastructure planning commission for a final decision on the matter. On April 5, 2009, the SPNI submitted a petition with thousands of signatures against the line, including that of Prof. Robert Aumann.[17]

On June 23, 2009, the environmentalists' petitions were rejected, and the planning committee decided that there would be a bridge over the Yitla Stream, in line with the previous recommendations of the Sadan Committee. Israel Railways and the Jerusalem Municipality supported the decision.[26][27] The decision in favor of a bridge over the stream was ratified by the National Planning Committee in August 2009, subject to design changes to be made to the bridge site to make it environmentally friendlier.[28] As a result, to reduce the bridge's footprint, its overall design was changed from a conventional concrete beam bridge composed of multiple segments to a long concrete balanced cantilever design, supported in the middle by a single set of columns. In addition, care was taken to minimize as much as possible the construction activities' impact on the stream's surroundings. Instead of the wide access road, a smaller route was employed and heavy equipment (such as sections of the TBMs for tunnel 3) and digging discharge associated with the construction of the nearly 12 km-long tunnel 3 were instead transported to and from the site through tunnel 2 and over the new bridge.

West Bank passages and Mevasseret Zion[edit]

The railway has also been criticized by the political left and the Palestinians for having two separate sections that pass through the West Bank, totaling 6 km. Most of this distance passes through tunnels, one in the Latrun area, and the other just north of Mevasseret Zion, after the town's residents protested the route going underneath the town.[29] For this reason, the German company Deutsche Bahn, which advised Israel Railways on the project, withdrew from it under pressure of pro-Palestinian organizations.[30] The residents of Mevasseret are also waging a campaign in favor of using a tunnel boring machine (TBM) to dig the tunnel in their section.[31] The Italian municipality of Rho near Milan adopted a resolution in November 2011 expressing "moral and political censure" towards Pizzarotti, an Italian company based in Parma, due to its involvement in the construction of the railway.[32] The municipality of Naples similarly asked Pizzarotti to withdraw from the project.[33] It should be noted however, that the section of the railway with which Pizzarotti is involved (i.e., the TBM-bored, western portion of tunnel 3) is not located in the West Bank.


Approach to the station at the center of Modi'in

The following stations will be found on the line:

After the completion of the project, there are plans to connect the second station with the Jerusalem Malha station through a continuation of the tunnel from Mevaseret Zion.

Modi'in branch[edit]

The Modi'in branch was completely opened on April 1, 2008 and includes two stations: Pa'atei Modi'in and Modi'in Center. The latter is underground, like the future Jerusalem Binyanei HaUma station, therefore making it possible to continue the line further into the city and beyond. In the past, various government panels have expressed the desire to continue this line, but is on hold pending agreement with the Palestinian Authority, as continuation of the rail line from the Modi'in branch northwards or eastwards will have to pass through the West Bank.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Electrification contract awarded". Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in 30 minutes". Israeli Ministry of Transportation Website. Ministry of Transport, National Infrastructure and Road Safety. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Bar-Eli, Avi (July 30, 2010). "High-Speed Train to Jerusalem on Track - for 2017". Haaretz. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  4. ^ "High-Speed Railway to Jerusalem Picking Up Speed". Ministry of Transport Press Releases (in Hebrew). Ministry of Transport and Road Safety. 1 November 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Expertise on an alternative alignment for the new high-speed railway line A1 Tel-Aviv – Jerusalem
  6. ^ Alternatives for Tel Aviv - Jerusalem Rail Line (map) at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b Tal, Dalya (April 9, 2001). "Jerusalem Municipality Supports G1 Plan with 16 Kilometers of Tunnels" (in Hebrew). Globes. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  8. ^ "A1, Really?" (PDF). Transport Today & Tomorrow. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  9. ^ "Minister Sneh Decided - A Fast Railway in Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion Airport-Modi'in-Jerusalem Line - Best Alternative" (in Hebrew). Ministry of Transportation. 2001-06-12. Archived from the original (DOC) on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bar-Eli, Avi (May 2, 2011). "TheMarker Investigation: High-Speed Railway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? Maybe Next Decade". TheMarker (in Hebrew). Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  11. ^ "Tunnel Boring Project on Tel Aviv – Jerusalem Line Inaugurated". Port2Port (in Hebrew). February 6, 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  12. ^ a b Baron, Lior (4 October 2009). "Contractors picked for final section of Jerusalem-Tel Aviv line". Globes. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  13. ^ Baron, Lior (September 22, 2009). "High-Speed Railway to Jerusalem Starts Up: Tunnel Digging will Start in November" (in Hebrew). Globes. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  14. ^ "Shapir Engineering: Tunneling and Bridging on the Railway to Jerusalem" (in Hebrew). 
  15. ^ קו הרכבת המהיר תל אביב- ירושלים: החלה כרייתן של צמד המנהרות הארוכות ביותר בישראל באורך של כ-12 קילומטרים כל אחת [TBM Boring of 12km Double Tunnel on the High-Speed Railway to Jerusalem Begins] (Press release) (in Hebrew). Israeli Ministry of Transport and Road Safety. 9 September 2012. 
  16. ^ "Excavation of Third Tunnel in Tel Aviv – Jerusalem Railway Line Completed". Port2Port (in Hebrew). August 29, 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c Tzafrir, Rinat (April 6, 2009). "Thousands of Opponents for the Bridge in the High-Speed Tel Aviv–Jerusalem Railway" (in Hebrew). Haaretz. Retrieved 2009-04-11. 
  18. ^ http://www.wisdom.weizmann.ac.il/~udi/personal/rakevet/linked_files/tvay2500.pdf
  19. ^ "A1 - Railway to Jerusalem - Bridge, Tunnel, Station" (in Hebrew). Moriah. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. 
  20. ^ Bar Eli, Avi (2008-04-09). "Finance Ministry Threatens to Cut Off Funding to Israel Railways Due to Financial Deviations" (in Hebrew). TheMarker. Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  21. ^ Ben Nun, Gil (25 November 2008). "The Railway to Jerusalem: The Price Rose, but So Did the Profitability" (in Hebrew). Mynet. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  22. ^ Shaked, Avraham. "The Railway to Jerusalem - Deeds of Israel Railways" (in Hebrew). Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  23. ^ Baron, Lior (2008-10-27). "The High-Speed Line to Jerusalem Delayed Again Due to Dispute between Israel Railways and the Planning Company" (in Hebrew). Globes. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  24. ^ a b Lichtman, Moshe (January 29, 2009). "Want a High-Speed Railway? Take 10 Years of Traffic Jams" (in Hebrew). Globes. Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  25. ^ Lichtman, Moshe (January 30, 2009). "Derailed" (in Hebrew). Globes. Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  26. ^ Yael Ivri-Dar'el (June 23, 2009). "Loss for the Environment Groups: The Railway to Jerusalem will Pass through a Bridge" (in Hebrew). Ynet. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  27. ^ Atzar, Oranit (June 23, 2009). "The Route of the High-Speed Railway to Jerusalem will be Advanced" (in Hebrew). Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  28. ^ Darel, Yael (August 4, 2009). "Final Decision: The Railway to Jerusalem will Go through a Bridge that will Hurt the Environment" (in Hebrew). Ynet. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  29. ^ "Fast Train Between TA, J'lem to Run Through West Bank". The Jerusalem Post. The Associated Press. November 6, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  30. ^ Kleinschmitt, Bernd (May 2, 2011). "Deutsche Bahn Withdraws from Project of New Railway Line from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem". European Jewish Post. Retrieved 2011-05-08. 
  31. ^ "Residents of Mevasseret Zion Published Transportation Minister's Personal Phone Number". Israel Channel 2. November 10, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  32. ^ "Risoluzione del Consiglio N. 41" (in Italian). Comune di Rho. 2011-11-30. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  33. ^ "Tav israeliana, "Pizzarotti fermi i lavori sui territori occupati"". la Repubblica - Parma (in Italian). 2012-02-20. Retrieved 2012-03-11. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°51′02″N 35°00′09″E / 31.850440°N 35.002388°E / 31.850440; 35.002388