Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz riding the fast train to Be'er Sheva with Boaz Zafrir.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz riding the fast train to Be'er Sheva with Israel Railways CEO Boaz Zafrir. Photo by David Bachar
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Residents of Be'er Sheva, students at Ben-Gurion University and soldiers stationed in the south got welcome news with the dedication yesterday of a new high-speed train line from the capital of the Negev to Tel Aviv.

The launch of the line came four and a half years after it was originally planned. It also followed eight years of work on the Lod-Be'er Sheva line, so that the track now serves two fast trains an hour instead of one slow one. The project cost some NIS 3 billion and involved the upgrade of 93 kilometers of track, construction of dozens of bridges, and the building of three new train stations: Be'er Sheva North, Lehavim and Kfar Menahem.

The train ride between the Tel Aviv Hashalom station at the Azrieli Center and Be'er Sheva will now take one hour, with the train traveling at speeds of 140 kilometers per hour. Until now, it was an 80 minute trip. "Finally the notion of the periphery can be eliminated," said Be'er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich.

The journey from Tel Aviv to Kiryat Gat is just 32 minutes now, compared to 44 minutes before. Because the track is also used by trains between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the upgrade will also cut the trip between those two cities by 20 minutes. The journey between Tel Aviv and Beit Shemesh has been shaved by seven minutes. Beginning in September, train service to and from Be'er Sheva is expected to run 24 hours a day and will also serve Ben-Gurion International Airport.