ISRAEL: Transport Minister Avingor Liebermann announced on September 30 that Israel Railways would invest more than US$4bn during 2004-08, including US$550m on rolling stock and motive power; of this one-third will be privately financed.

Priority projects include the direct line to Jerusalem, double-tracking from Lod to Beer Sheva, a new line from Akko to Karmi’el in Gallilee and reopening of the 74 km Hedjaz Railway branch from Haifa to Beit-She’an, which would eventually be extended to Irbid in Jordan.

On September 14 Liebermann participated in ceremonies marking the opening of the new branch from Beer Yaakov to Rishon-Le-Zion, together with new stations at Ashdod-Ad-Halom and Rosh-Ha-Ayin North. The same day also saw the restoration of services on the first 21 km of the upgraded line to Jerusalem as far as Beit Shemesh.

IR has started construction of a 13 km freight branch to serve a hazardous materials terminal and chemical plants at Ramat-Hovov, south of Beer Sheva; due to open in May 2004, this is costed at US$27m.