Tel Aviv–Jerusalem railway
The Tel Aviv–Jerusalem railway (also high-speed railway to Jerusalem, 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 and has been partially operational since 25 September 2018. It will serve as the main rail link between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, complementing the old Jaffa–Jerusalem railway. As such, the railway is often referred to in Israel as the high-speed railway to Jerusalem to distinguish it from the older, longer and slower line.
The newly constructed railway will span about 56 km of electrified double track, costing approximately NIS 7 billion (about US$2 billion) due to the extensive bridging and tunneling required along the mountainous route. The design speed is 160 km/h with a projected travel time of approximately 28 minutes from Tel Aviv HaHagana railway station to Jerusalem–Yitzhak Navon railway station. As of 2019, the travel time between Ben Gurion Airport railway station and Jerusalem is 24 minutes.
The line is the first heavy rail line in Israel to be electrified and was originally planned to open in 2008, but due to various objections, bureaucratic delays and engineering difficulties it only partially opened in September 2018 – with trains running between Jerusalem and Ben Gurion airport. The remaining electrification works necessary for trains originating in Jerusalem to continue to Tel Aviv and Herzliya may last "well into 2019". Until then, rail passengers from Jerusalem who wish to reach destinations other than Ben Gurion airport from Navon station must change trains at the airport station.
Eventually, trains from Jerusalem are expected to reach all the way to northern Israel as electrification works progress northwards along the Coastal Railway, with the long-term plan of trains originating from Jerusalem terminating at Karmiel by the mid 2020s.
- 1 Planning
- 2 Construction
- 3 Stations
- 4 Difficulties and controversies
- 5 Future
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
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:
- 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.
- 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). Compared to alternative A, A1 included a considerable amount of tunneling in order to obtain a more direct route through the mountains.
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, 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. 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. As part of the implementation of plan S, the old line's reach into Jerusalem was shortened at the request of the Jerusalem municipality. Instead of terminating at the Jerusalem Railway Station, the renovated line terminated at the new Malha Station in southern Jerusalem.
Following plan S rehabilitation, trains using the Jaffa–Jerusalem railway reach southern Jerusalem in about 75 minutes from Tel Aviv. This relatively long travel time, the non-central location of Malha station, and the low capacity of the line due to its eastern section consisting of only single-track means that it continues to be one of the lesser-used lines in Israel Railways' network, even though it connects two large metropolises. In contrast, the expected travel time from Tel Aviv to central Jerusalem using the new A1 route will be approximately 30 minutes, and allow a high frequency of trains to operate along the route.
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 towards the new Modi'in Center Railway Station 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, with service to Paatei Modi'in Station starting in September 2007.
- Kfar Daniel – Latrun (Section A) – includes a 1.2 km railway bridge, the longest in Israel (completed in 2008). This section was built by Danya Cebus and completed in 2011, at a cost of NIS 250 million.
- 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. 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.
- 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. 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. Conventional boring of tunnel 3 from east to west started in March 2012 while TBM excavation from west to east started in September 2012 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. The tender for construction was awarded in the fall of 2009 to Hofrey Hasharon Ltd. and the German holding company Max Bögl. The estimated cost is NIS 640 million, 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.
The line opened for limited service between Jerusalem and Ben Gurion airport on 25 September 2018. Electrification works on the existing railway between the airport and Herzliya through Tel Aviv are expected to continue through 2019.
Bridges and tunnels
Below is a breakdown of the tunnels, bridges and underpasses found along the route.
|Shafirim Interchange||Under Road 412 and the westbound direction of Highway 1||Underpass|
|Between Hemed and Tzafria||Under Road 4404||Underpass|
|Bridge 1||Ben Gurion Interchange||Above Highway 1||Bridge||550–600 m|
|Between Lod Interchange and Lod Bridge Junction||Over the Eastern Railway and Highway 40||Bridge|
|East of Ginaton Junction||Over Road 443||Bridge|
|Daniel Interchange||Over Highway 6||Bridge|
|Bridge 4||Near Sha'alvim||Over entrance road to Sha'alvim||Bridge||120 m|
|Bridge 5||Near Sha'alvim||Bridge||180 m|
|Bridge 6||Valley of Ajalon||Over Highway 3 and the valley||viaduct||1,200–1,250 m|
(40 m tall)
|Tunnel 1||Canada Park||Under the park||Tunnel (TBM)||2 x 3.5 km|
|Bridge 7||South of Mevo Horon||Bridge||80 m|
|Tunnel 2||Near Nataf||Tunnel
(25% C&C, 75% NATM)
|2 x 1,250 m|
|Bridge 8||West of Nataf||Over Yitla Stream||Bridge||150 m|
|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|
|Bridge 9||Mevaseret Zion||Bridge||255 m|
|Tunnel 3a||Mevaseret Zion||Tunnel (NATM)||2 x 850 m|
|Bridge 10||Mevaseret Zion||Bridge||975 m|
(95 m tall)
|Tunnel 4||Jerusalem—from near Ginot Saharov to Binyanei HaUma||Under Lifta||Tunnel (NATM)||2.9 km|
The following stations are found on the line:
- Ben Gurion Airport Railway Station – located within Terminal 3 of the Ben Gurion International Airport.
- Jerusalem–Yitzhak Navon railway station (formerly called Jerusalem—HaUma Railway Station) – located next to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, 80 meters underground. The station will also double as a bomb shelter.
For the first few years of operation, past the Ben Gurion Airport station trains from Jerusalem will stop at all of Tel Aviv's railway stations and will terminate at the Herzliya Railway Station since that is where the initial stage of the railway electrification program will end. Later, trains will be extended northwards towards Haifa and later to Karmiel as progress is made on electrifying the rest of the northern portion of the Coastal Railway.
The Modi'in branch was fully opened on April 1, 2008 and includes two stations: Pa'atei Modi'in and Modi'in Center. The latter is underground, similar to the Jerusalem–Yitzhak Navon railway 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.
The initial configuration of the Modi'in branch only allows trains to and from the direction of the airport and Tel Aviv to reach Modi'in. As part of the later construction stages of the Jerusalem section of the railway, a spur is being built to enable trains to and from the direction of Jerusalem to reach Modi'in as well.
Difficulties and controversies
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 billion, although after a re-evaluation in 2008, it rose to about NIS 6 billion, and required NIS 2 billion more to be invested by the Israeli government. This 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. 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 billion coverage necessary to proceed with construction. By 2010, the cost had risen to NIS 6.9 billion.
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.
Administrative disputes and tender controversies
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 billion 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.
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.
Dirt dumpage and engineering problems
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). 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. Additional dirt will be dumped in a new landfill on a site next to the Sha'ar HaGai interchange between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The project has come under fire for two consecutive tunnel collapses in Tunnel 3a in January and March 2011. Both incidents ended without casualties.
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. 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 created to aid the construction work. 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. Nevertheless, in March 2009 the Jerusalem area regional infrastructure planning commission recommended against the environmentalists' plan and chose 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.
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. 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. 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
The railway has also been criticized by the Arab 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. For this reason, the German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn, which advised Israel Railways on the project, withdrew from it under pressure of pro-Palestinian organizations. The residents of Mevasseret were also waging a campaign in favor of using a tunnel boring machine (TBM) to dig the tunnel in their section. 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. The municipality of Naples similarly asked Pizzarotti to withdraw from the project. 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.
Now that Yitzhak Navon Station is completed, an extension is planned into the city with two additional stations: one near the city center, and one in the Old City. Further stages may include additional stations in Jerusalem.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to High-speed railway Tel Aviv-Jerusalem.|
- Project page on the Israel Railways website (in Hebrew)
- Project page on Moriah – the company for Jerusalem's development (in Hebrew)
- Aerial video of Bridge 10 under construction (October 2016)
- Video of construction activities taking place in some of the tunnels (December 2011)
- Video of cutting head being attached to Tunnel No. 1's TBM (January 2012)
- Time-lapse video of the assembly and beginning of operation of Tunnel No. 1's TBM
- Report of the Sadan Committee (in Hebrew)
- Review of the project (in Russian)