In a maiden voyage, a train on Monday left the new station of Migdal Haemek-Kfar Baruch for Beit She’an, making the first journey in 65 years along the rebuilt Jezreel Valley railway line.
The train carried dignitaries, including Transportation Minster Yisrael Katz (Likud), mayors of the cities along the route, and senior citizens who still remembered the last time a train made the journey.
The original line used narrow-gauge track, which made it incompatible with the rest of Israel Railways’ rolling stock and was closed in 1951. Although plans to resurrect the train line had been discussed for decades, construction of the new line only began in 2011 and progressed quickly.
In addition to replacing the previous track, construction included building 26 bridges and three tunnels. The new trains will travel at up to 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour) and the entire 60-kilometer (37-mile) journey is expected to take about 50 minutes. The total cost for the project was about $1 billion.
The line will open to the public on October 16, just before the festival of Sukkot. The train will be free from its inauguration until November 4th. After that time the train is expected to run twice an hour in each direction.
The completed Jezreel Valley railway was re-inaugurated today (Last time it was used was in 1948). pic.twitter.com/K6Yer1MI9s
— ab (@Abc11Ab) August 29, 2016
“This is a historic day,” said Eli Barda, mayor of Migdal Haemek. “We fought against the decision of Yair Lapid, the previous finance minister, to stop the train, and today we are happy to inaugurate it. This is good news for the city of Migdal Haemek, whose residents and visitors will benefit from the new station, giving direct, easy access to and from the city,” he proclaimed.
The line will also be used to carry freight, and the government says it has the potential to become a gateway from the Haifa port to the rest of the Middle East. “This will connect Israel to Jordan and the rest of the countries of the Middle East” said Katz, according to Ynet.
The original train line was built under the Ottoman Empire as part of the Haifa-Damascus line. The first train from Haifa to Beit She’an ran in 1904, and in 1905 the first journey was made from Haifa to Damascus.
During Israel’s War of Independence the rail line connecting Israel to Jordan was destroyed. However the train continued to run for several years from Haifa to Afula.
This video shows the entirety of the new track along the Jezreel Valley line: