ISRAEL Railways Ltd was separated from the Israeli Ports Authority and established as a privately-structured state-owned company on July 1. For the moment IR remains attached to the Ministry of Transport, but it is expected to be able to raise finance on the open market. Over the next six years IR Ltd will aim to obtain a total of US$4bn, with US$1·3bn sourced from the finance markets in Israel and elsewhere.

The new company’s budget for 2003 totals US$580m compared with US$279m for IR in its previous form. According to General Manager Yossi Snir, the length of the IR network will increase from 700 route-km to 1100 route-km during the next six years, and a programme of development projects is already in hand which will see continued expansion of the IR network (below). However, seeds of doubt over future plans were sown when newly-appointed Chairman of IR Ltd Moshe Leon announced on July 2 that Yossi Snir would leave his post after two months, during which he is expected to overlap with his successor.

Transport Minister Avigdor Liberman has instructed IR Ltd to start planning construction of a new line between Kessem Junction at Rosh Ha’Ayin North, and the town of Ariel, 29 km to the east - preliminary design was in hand in the late 1990s. Later extensions could take the route northwards to Nablus and Jenin, ultimately joining a planned route from Haifa into Jordan via Bet Sha’an (RG 5.1998 p294). Our correspondent reports that the line to Ariel and beyond will be called the ’Line for Peace’ and that ’the Palestinian people will be able to use it between Gaza and the West Bank instead of using private cars’.

Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked for a feasibility study into construction of a 175 km line from the phosphate deposits at Har Zin to Eilat on the Red Sea. Netanyahu noted that because of the restricted size of ships able to traverse the Suez Canal higher tonnages are being shipped round Africa; an alternative would see the proposed line from Eilat used as a landbridge between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

Israel Railways major projects
ProjectCost US$mCompletionStatus
Shapirim – Ben Gurion Airport link 29·3  Jan 2004 u/c
Tel Aviv – Rishon Le Zion (Rishonim) 9·3 Sep 2003 u/c
Freight link to Ramat Hovav terminal 16·3 Feb 2004 u/c
Upgrade of line to Jerusalem 88·6 Apr 2004 u/c
Ashdod – Ashkelon doubling 49·5 Feb 2006 u/c
Ben Gurion Airport – Modi’in 262·3 Apr 2005 u/c
Be’er Sheva – Dimona upgrade 39·8 Jan 2005 u/c
Tel Aviv – Moshe Dayan 154·0 Apr 2008 planned
Moshe Dayan – Rishon Le Zion West 165·8 Feb 2008 planned
Kfar Sava Nordau – Kfar Sava Sokolov 13·9 Apr 2004 planned
Doubling Tel Aviv – Kfar Sava 117·0 Mar 2006 planned
Doubling Qiryat Motzkin – Nahariya 55·6 Apr 2005 planned
Doubling Lod – Naan 47·2 Feb 2005 planned
Doubling Naan – Be’er Sheva 214·2 Feb 2007 planned
Ashkelon – Be’er Sheva 211·6 Feb 2008 planned
Akko – Karmi’el 219·3 Feb 2008 planned
Kfar Sava – Ra’ananna – Herzliya 266·4 Feb 2008 planned
Moshe Dayan – Pleshet link 107·2 Apr 2007 planned
Haifa – Afula – Bet Sha’an – Jordan 209·3 Mar 2007 proposed
Modi’in – Jerusalem high speed link 744·2 Feb 2009 proposed
Electrification of main lines 372·0 2010 proposed
Freight infrastructure 99·6 2007 proposed
Level crossing grade separation 116·3 2007 proposed
Communications upgrade 46·5 2007 proposed
Rolling stock investment 581·4 2007 planned
Security and safety improvements 23·3 2007 planned

CAPTION: IR services from Ramla and Tel Aviv to Rosh Ha’Ayin were extended to Kfar Sava Nordau (above) with effect from April 13. Stations at Rosh Ha’Ayin North and Rishon Le Zion (Rishonim) are due to open on September 15.