Security Boosted for Public Transport

Hundreds of guards will be enlisted to provide security on public transport, according to a decision adopted Friday by the Transportation Ministry and the Israel Police. The decision came during an urgent debate called for by Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh in the wake of Wednesday's terror attack that left eight people dead.

The Transportation Ministry announced that the security guards would be financed by a 1-2 percent hike in bus prices, beginning this July.

Over the past year, during which buses once again became popular targets for terror attacks, the Egged bus cooperative repeatedly asked the government to renew the activities of the Bus Security Unit, set up in 1994 following a series of attacks on buses and which numbers over 400 guards.

The unit was disbanded some three years later after the Israel Police came out with what it declared to be a more efficient and widespread plan for securing public transport. The Bus Security Unit's annual budget of around NIS 40 million was transferred to the police, which established a number of regional security units to handle the task.

Following the terror attack on an Egged bus in Wadi Ara some three weeks ago, the cooperative harshly criticized the government for disregarding its repeated approaches on the subject. Egged's marketing manager, Ron Ratner, charged that the the security of bus travelers (approximately two million people a day) was being neglected because "most users of public transport are people of meager means - the elderly, soldiers, youths, new immigrants - a public whose voice is not heard."

Friday's meeting at the Transportation Ministry ended with a decision to implement a plan for securing both the buses and the bus stations, at a cost of some NIS 40 million, to be financed by an increase in bus fares. Under police guidance, hundreds of guards will operate, overtly and covertly, along the seam line and other sensitive areas.

"It is better than nothing," Ratner said in response.