Israel Railways has invested NIS 3 million in planning the first section of a train line from Rosh Ha'ayin to the West Bank town of Nablus.
The line is part of Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz's plan to build a railway across the West Bank.
Katz, who visited the West Bank in May to inaugurate a new road, said the ministry was promoting a railway through the West Bank that would link up with both the historic Valley Train to Haifa and the Jerusalem line.
The planned route would run from Rosh Ha'ayin to Nablus via the settlements of Barkan and Ariel. The first section, from Rosh Ha'ayin to Ariel, is the part that has already been planned, at a cost of NIS 3 million.
The Valley Train, inaugurated by the Ottoman Empire in 1905, ran from Haifa to Damascus, where it linked up with the Hejaz Railway to Medina in the Arabian peninsula, a total distance of some 1,300 kilometers.
The last station of another historic Ottoman line, which branched off the Valley Train toward Tul Karm, still stands in Nablus. One of that line's most famous stations was in Sebastia, where the Gush Emunim movement tried to establish the first West Bank settlement in the 1970s.
"Israel Railways is advancing the Ariel railway project and is in the early planning stages, including a connection from Rosh Ha'ayin to Ariel and a continuing line to Nablus," Israel Railways' general manager wrote to Katz's bureau in March. "We recommend planning three stations along the route - Rosh Ha'ayin East, Barkan and Ariel."
The railway plan approved by the cabinet, however, does not include the West Bank line, which is not expected to be built in the next few years. Apart from the political difficulties involved in building it, the Finance Ministry is likely to question the line's economic justification.
The Defense Ministry, which is in charge of granting building permits in the territories, has not heard of the new plan, ministry officials told Haaretz.
"This is merely preliminary planning, at a cost of almost NIS 3 million, for a railway line between Rosh Ha'ayin and Ariel," Israel Railways responded. "Planning for the section between Ariel and Nablus is still at the conceptual stage."
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