Commuters hit with travel chaos in rush hour, with major train lines out of action

Infrastructure failures on Jerusalem-Herzliya line add to havoc caused by construction on the Tel Aviv-Haifa route; new pricing structure comes into effect

Traffic piles up on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, July 24, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Traffic piles up on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, July 24, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Chaos greeted commuters early Monday morning after an infrastructure malfunction disrupted morning train services on a major line.

Travelers in both directions on the Jerusalem-Herzliya line — which stops at all train stations in Tel Aviv — were forced to disembark at Ben Gurion Airport and switch to replacement trains.

After hours of delays during peak rush hour, Israel Railways updated commuters that the malfunction had been fixed and services were gradually returning to normal.

The disruption in service came during a week in which the busy Tel Aviv-Haifa train line is already shuttered for scheduled maintenance works, causing massive traffic jams on the coastal road between the cities.

Speaking to the Kan public broadcaster on Monday regarding the scheduling of the Tel Aviv-Haifa disruptions, Yehiel Tovol, a manager at Israel Railways, said that the summer was deliberately chosen as it would be less disruptive.

“According to the plans it will take a week. There is no good time for a closure, but this is a time with the fewest passengers and developing public transportation comes with a price,” he said.

The work on further connecting the coastal line to the eastern one, which runs through cities such as Petah Tikva, Kfar Saba and Ra’anana, began on Sunday and is scheduled to be completed on Saturday.

Illustrative photo of a train at the Yitzhak Navon train station in Jerusalem, on May 11, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

During that period, northbound trains will end their journeys in Herzliya or Netanya, while southbound trains from Nahariya will stop in Binyamina; shuttle services will be available to supplement the missing train legs.

Despite the disruptions, Monday marked the beginning of the new “Derech Shaveh” public transportation overhaul championed by Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli.

The new system features a new nationwide pass, allowing users to access unlimited public transportation across the country for NIS 225 ($65) per month. Those over age 75 can travel for free, and retirees under that age are entitled to 50% discounts on all tickets.

The program is designed to encourage increased the use of public transportation, with the aim of relieving congestion on the clogged road network.

The population’s concentration in the center of the country, the stagnant public transportation system and the slow pace of road construction have caused traffic in Israel to be 3.5 times worse than the OECD average, even though the rate of car ownership is relatively low compared to other developed countries.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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