Israel Railways has informed the Transportation Ministry that the cost of a proposed new train line from Rosh Ha'ayin to Ariel is not feasible economically. The agency has proposed building a light railway instead.

The project was to be the first part of a rail line from Rosh Ha'ayin to the West Bank city of Nablus; two years ago NIS 3 million was allocated for planning. The first leg was to include stations at the Barkan industrial park and at Ariel. There is already a station at Rosh Ha'ayin. But residents of the Elkana, Etz Efraim and Oranit settlements demanded an additional station to serve their communities.

Transportation Minister Israel Katz submitted a grandiose plan to lay 475 kilometers of tracks to the relevant planning authorities, but two months ago Israel Railway officials told him the Rosh Ha'ayin-Ariel route would be very expensive to build as it would require extensive excavations.

Katz instructed the agency to come up with an alternative. It has proposed putting in a light railway line on Highway 5 that would eventually link up to the greater Tel Aviv light railway network. Work on this system began several weeks ago.

While this could be done at low cost the light railway would not be part of the Israel Railways train network. In addition, it would not be capable of carrying cargo to and from the industrial areas near Ariel.

While touring the Binyamin area yesterday Katz told Haaretz his ministry was "examining the possibility of a light railway," adding that the plans were progressing.