A cargo train hit another train parked on the track near the Tzefa station in the south of the country yesterday, in the second collision since Thursday. The accident, which damaged the trains but caused no injuries, came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated in a ceremony for a planned train station in the southern town of Netivot.
The car of one train was totally destroyed in the accident and two others were damaged, and the cost of fixing the trains is estimated at several million shekels.
Two passenger trains collided near Netanya on Thursday, lightly injuring some 60 people and causing an estimated NIS 40 million in damage to the trains and track.
Israel Railways has also been plagued by three fires aboard its trains in the last four months, with the latest taking place Wednesday aboard a train traveling from Modi'in to Tel Aviv. There were no injuries.
The Netivot train station is due to be completed by 2013 and will be part of a new NIS 2 billion line linking Be'er Sheva and Ashkelon, which is meant to complete a circular rail link between Tel Aviv and the south of the country. However, the ceremony did not take place in downtown Netivot, but in an open area on the outskirts of town, where the station will be located. The site is difficult for Netivot residents to reach.
"The investment in infrastructure will make this place more attractive," Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said at the cornerstone-laying ceremony yesterday.
Netanyahu went a step further, saying he wants to link every part of the country by train.
"We are in the midst of a transportation revolution in Israel," he said. "My vision is to link Jerusalem, the Negev and the Galilee, as well as Eilat, via a train network."
The entire Be'er Sheva-Ashkelon line, which is to include additional stops in the low-income towns of Ofakim and Sderot, is scheduled to be ready by 2015, though Israel Railways is aiming to complete the section from Ashkelon to Netivot by 2014.
The Lod-Be'er Sheva line, another part of the link to Tel Aviv, is expected to be completed by next year.
No matter when the southern line is completed, it will be way past the initial target date of 2008, when plans for the line were canceled on Finance Ministry orders. The treasury said at the time the line was unnecessary, but the cabinet approved the resumption of the project in December of that year. However, the project got stuck again as Israel Railways and the treasury debated whether to build a single track or a double track.
Israel Railways wanted a double track, saying a single one would restrict the movement of trains along the entire line and would slow down future train service. But the treasury said it was not financially viable to build a double track, which costs between NIS 200 million and NIS 300 million more.
Katz called for a double track two years ago, and the Finance Ministry agreed to fund a double track just between Ashkelon and Netivot, with the section to Be'er Sheva on a single track.
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