ISRAEL RAILWAYS has confirmed plans to step up the trial service on the Tel Aviv - Ashdod route, following encouraging loadings after the Rechovot service was extended in October 1996. The aim is to run five trains an hour once upgrading and double-tracking costing US$90m is completed.

Another Tel Aviv commuter route has made progress, with IR calling tenders for reinstatement of the south curve of the triangle between the Tel Aviv - Netanya line and the route east through Bnei Brak. US$30m has been approved for the double-track connection, which will allow commuter services from the Ayalon corridor cross-city route to access upgraded and new alignment to the suburbs of Kfar Sava and Petah Tiqva.

HIR is considering development of a corridor route from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank to provide ’safe passage’ between Palestinian territories. Discussions between the Ports & Railways Authority General Manager Shoresh Lehrer and Dr Nabil Shaat of the Palestinian authority included reinstatement of the Ashkelon - Erez line for about US$11m. Trains would run over IR’s Ashkelon - Lod route to gain access to the disused route to Tul-Karm and Hadera East. Revival of this line would also provide an alternative freight route between Ashdod and Haifa ports. o

Ports & Railways Authority General Manager Shoresh Lehrer has come to an agreement with environmental groups that the route to be promoted for a new line to Jerusalem will be Option C (RG 9.96 p544), closely following the West Bank border and main road northwest of Jerusalem, with a 12·5 km tunnel under a National Park.