ISRAEL RAILWAYS, encouraged by the public's enthusiastic response to a steady programme of rolling stock modernisation and service expansion, has drawn up a Master Plan that could see nearly 900 km of new lines built by 2020 at a total cost of around US$3·7bn.

The present 610 route-km network is being steadily improved and upgraded, but the projects in the Master Plan would bring dramatic changes, including electrification of key sections. There are 35 individual projects ranging from short spurs to the proposed new line from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem that may be constructed under a build-operate-and-transfer deal. If the plans are implemented in full, IR will see a huge increase in freight and passenger business.

Early indications show that traffic is rising by around 13% this year. Much publicity for IR was generated by a programme of trials with a German VT611 tilting diesel set from March 3 to April 6. Prime Minister Benyimin Netanyahu and other politicians rode the train, which demonstrated its ability to run faster through curves on the lines from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Haifa and Beer Sheva. Among the fastest runs was a 38min dash over the 90 km between Tel Aviv and Haifa at an average speed of nearly 143 km/h.

The Adtranz-built train had been made available by German Railway, and Adtranz is marketing the train in Israel as the Regio Swinger.

Details of the new line and other projects in the Master Plan are shown below.

Galilee region

1. Nahariyya - Rosh Hanikra (11 km), US$60m; preliminary design complete

2. Krayot - Nahariyya (17 km), US$49m; double tracking planned

3. Akko - Carmiel (24 km), US$160m; preliminary design complete

4. Nesher - Ahihud (22·5 km); in national plan

Haifa region

5. Haifa - Bet Sha'an (62 km), US$200m; Jezreel valley line in national plan

6. Bet Sha'an - Sheikh Hussein bridge (12 km), US$60m; in national plan

7. Ahituv - Yokneam (39 km), US$250m; proposed for national plan

8. Afula - Jenin (11 km), US$12m; proposed for national plan

9. Link to Tirat Hakarmel (2 km), US$1·5m; in national plan

Central region

10. Lod - Hadera East (64 km), US$300m; alignment reserved

11. Tel Aviv - Petah Tikva - Kfar Sava (29 km), US$270m; upgrading and electrification design complete

12. Kfar Sava - coast (7 km), US$75m; in Public Works Department plan

13. Taas line (9 km), US$100m; depends on local planning

14. Rosh Ha'Ain - Ariel (29 km), US$75m; electrified line in preliminary design

15. Ben Gurion airport link (9 km), US$40m; has government approval

16. Ramla - Modi'in (14 km), US$70m; awaits national plan approval

17. New line to Jerusalem (56 to 87 km, depending on route chosen), up to US$500m; may be BOT project put out to tender; would cut journey time from Tel Aviv to 55min

18. Bet Shemesh urban line (16 km), US$100m; depends on local planning

Southern region

19. Lod - Rechovot - Ashdod (30 km), uncosted; in preliminary design

20. Tel Aviv South - Rishon Lezion (13 km), US$200m; in preliminary design

21. Beer Yakov - Gan Veradim (3·5 km), US$10m; most of alignment acquired

22. Rishon Lezion West - Rishon Lezion South (3 km), US$50m; to be finalised

23. Rishon Lezion - Ashdod (19 km), US$120m; preliminary design complete

24. Ramla - Naan (7 km), uncosted, upgrading proposed

25. Naan - Beer Sheva (72 km), US$380m; preliminary design for possible new line complete

26. Mavqiim to Karni - Beer Sheva line (8 km), US$8m; ready to implement

27. Qiryat Gat - Tarkomia (27 km), US$65m; preliminary design complete

Negev region

28. Beer Sheva bypass (47 km), US$135m; partly approved

29. Beer Sheva - Ramat Hovav chord (21 km), US$30m; detailed design approved

30. Beer Sheva - Nitsana (66·5 km), US$85m; preliminary design of link to Egypt

31. Beer Sheva - Gaza (44 km), US$60m; preliminary design

32. Nevatim - Arad (33 km), US$45m; preliminary design

33. Dimona - Yeruham (12·5 km), US$22m; preliminary design complete

34. Hatseva - Sdom (32 km), US$75m; preliminary design of mineral line complete

35. Har Zin - Eilat (161 km), uncosted; preliminary design complete.