Jerusalem is set to extend fast train services to and from Tel Aviv into the capital with plans to deliver two more stations in central Jerusalem, in addition to the Yitzhak Navon train station inaugurated in 2019.
The new stations are expected to begin services by 2030, after the National Committee for the Planning and Construction of National Infrastructures gave its initial approval for the project this week, according to reports in the Hebrew-language media, and has invited comments from the relevant local committees and from the public.
At the moment, the train track to and from Jerusalem starts and ends at Navon station near the Chords Bridge at the western entrance to the city, in the area known as the Jerusalem Gateway where significant new development is planned in the coming years.
The extended service will reach a new station, Jerusalem Central, at the intersection of Jaffa and King George streets, and terminate at a station near the Khan Theater on David Remez Street. A rail station was located there as part of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway service in 1892, but it was closed in 1998 and re-opened as Hatahana Harishona (the First Station), which has been used as a cultural venue since 2013.
The extended service will also offer better connections with the light rail (both blue and red lines) and the planned cable car to the Old City.
Services will gradually increase from two or three trains an hour (and one train an hour through the night) in each direction to about 13 trains an hour between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem by 2040, Channel 12 reported Tuesday.
The extension is budgeted at NIS 4.7 billion ($1.4 billion), with work expected to start in 2024. It is a key part of the Israel Railways 2040 strategic plan for the country, which was unveiled in the summer of 2017 and promised to increase rail journeys and passenger numbers by more than 300%.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said plans for the extended service will be fully approved within months, adding that Jerusalem was “in the midst of a revolution.”
Previous plans for Jerusalem included a connection to a station adjacent to the Western Wall, set to be named after former US president Donald Trump. These plans appear to have been dropped, although the controversial bid to build a cable car to Jerusalem’s historic Old City is slowly moving forward.
The NIS 200 million (59 million) cable car project, approved by the government in November 2019, calls for a 1.4-kilometer (nearly a mile) track running from the First Station shopping and entertainment area in West Jerusalem over a valley mainly populated by Palestinian East Jerusalemites to the Old City’s Dung Gate, near the Western Wall and the City of David archaeological site.
The project’s advocates at the Tourism Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality argue that the cable car will attract tourists and relieve congestion around the Old City walls,
Its opponents, however, say that the plan is obtrusive and culturally and politically irresponsible and that rather than solving the traffic problem, it will simply shift it to the area of the First Station.
Sue Surkes contributed to this report.