Commuters are hit by rush hour travel chaos with major train lines out of service

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

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

After hours of rush hour delays, Israel Railways informed commuters that the malfunction had been resolved and services were gradually returning to normal.

The service disruption came during a week in which the busy Tel Aviv-Haifa rail line is already closed for scheduled maintenance work, causing massive traffic jams on the coastal route between the cities.

Speaking to the Kan public broadcaster on Monday about the Tel Aviv-Haifa disruption schedule, Yehiel Tovol, director of Israel Railways, said the summer was deliberately chosen because it would be less disruptive.

“According to the plans, it will take a week. There is no good time for a closure, but it is a period with the fewest passengers and the development of public transport comes at a price,” he said.

Work to further connect the coastal line with the eastern line, which runs through cities such as Petah Tikva, Kfar Saba and Ra’anana, began on Sunday and is expected to be completed on Saturday.

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

During this period, northbound trains will end their journey at Herzliya or Netanya, while southbound trains from Nahariya will stop at Binyamina; shuttle services will be available to complete missing train sections.

Despite the disruptions, Monday marked the start of the new “Derech Shaveh” public transport overhaul championed by Transport Minister Merav Michaeli.

The new system includes a new national pass, giving users access to unlimited public transport across the country for NIS 225 ($65) per month. People over 75 can travel for free and pensioners under that age are entitled to 50% off all tickets.

The program aims to encourage increased use of public transport, with the aim of relieving congestion on the congested road network.

The concentration of the population in the center of the country, the stagnation of the public transport system and the slow pace of road construction have meant that traffic in Israel is 3.5 times worse than the OECD average, even though the car ownership is relatively low compared to other developed countries.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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