Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz says the new half-hour train link between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will open in 2018.
The two cities, which account for the majority of Israel’s economic activity, are nearly 70 kilometers (44 miles) apart but only currently served by a 90-minute winding railway line on a route designed during the British mandate.
Road traffic can be badly congested at peak times, with the journey taking up to two hours.
The much-delayed new train service will shuttle passengers at up to 160 kilometers per hour from early 2018, Katz tells journalists during a tour of an underground tunnel along the new route.
Built under Israeli supervision in conjunction with Chinese, Italian and Russian companies, the new line is an important part of the “public transport revolution” under way in Israel, Katz says.
The service will also stop at Ben Gurion International Airport, 10 kilometers east of Tel Aviv. At peak times, there will be four trains an hour in both directions.
Israel Railways director Boaz Tzafrir says he expects 4,000 passengers during rush hour, 50,000 per day and more than 10 million a year on the new service.