FUNDING for the long-planned high speed line from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and other major projects was allocated in Israel's budget for the next five years announced on December 1; for the first time the rail spend this year (US$800m) will exceed that allocated for roads (US$780m).

On December 3 the National Council for Planning & Building approved the new line, and the government endorsed it on the following day. Diverging at Daniel Junction from the Ben Gurion Airport - Modi'in line now under construction, the new line will include 6 km on viaduct or bridges and 17 km in tunnels, the longest of which is 11·2 km; slab track is being considered for both tunnels and bridges. Journey time from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will be just 28min.

Other schemes to be accelerated include upgrading the Beit Shemesh - Jerusalem line (US$107m), double-tracking from Lod to Beer Sheva (US$204·5m), upgrading Beer Sheva - Dimona for passenger trains by 2005 (US$38m), and double-tracking from Ashdod to Ashkelon, where a new station will be built (US$47·5m). Work is also to go ahead on a line from Ashkelon to Beer Sheva via Ofakim, Netivot and Shderot.