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Israel breaks ground on mass Bus Rapid Transit system

The Blue Line will connect Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion, Nes Ziona and Rehovot.

The Tel Aviv Light Rail's Red Line under construction in Ramat Gan, as part of a planned mass transit system, Nov. 7, 2019. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90.
The Tel Aviv Light Rail's Red Line under construction in Ramat Gan, as part of a planned mass transit system, Nov. 7, 2019. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90.

Israeli Transportation Minister Miri Regev on Wednesday laid the cornerstone for the Blue Line, an advanced mass transit system that will connect Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion, Nes Ziona and Rehovot.

The Bus Rapid Transit system is forecasted to carry approximately 77,000 passengers a day and 56 million per year.

The Blue Line will be 23 kilometers (14 miles) long, with 44 stations, and during peak hours will operate at a frequency of every 6 minutes.

The transportation system is based on advanced, high-capacity electric buses that move on an exclusive and separated transportation route. The buses are given priority at intersections and traffic lights, thus guaranteeing accurate arrival times and an improved travel experience.

Electronic displays will be installed in the stations and in the buses, providing real-time information on location and arrival time.

In Israel, the BRT system has been operating for 10 years with great success in the Haifa metropolis. However, the Transportation Ministry emphasizes that more advanced vehicles will operate on the Blue Line, with quiet and clean electric propulsion, and with innovative technologies that have come into use in recent years.

The line is being built by the Ayalon Routes Company, and is expected to open in 2028. The construction cost is estimated at 2.9 billion shekels ($790 million).

Last week, Regev’s ministry announced the Tel Aviv Light Rail’s first line is scheduled to start operating on Aug. 18.

The 24 kilometer (15 mile) Red Line, which connects the coastal city of Bat Yam (just south of Tel Aviv) with Petach Tikvah (east of Tel Aviv) has been green-lighted after all outstanding safety approvals were granted.

Originally scheduled to be launched nearly two years ago, the nearly 19 billion shekel ($5 billion) project was repeatedly derailed by malfunctions, including in its signaling and emergency braking.

The line includes 33 stations and runs from Bat Yam through Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak and Ramat Gan to Petach Tikvah in both directions. Half of the route is underground.

The inauguration of the Red Line is supposed to include a period of free rides, although the length of the grace period is still under discussion.

Also last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a 100 billion shekel ($27 billion) plan to link the country’s north and south by high-speed rail. Such a rail line would also allow the transport of goods from Israel to Saudi Arabia.

The proposed high-speed rail line would run about 400 kilometers (250 miles), from the northern city of Kiryat Shmona to the southern city of Eilat.

“My vision is for every Israeli citizen to be able to travel to or from the center from anywhere in the country in less than two hours,” said Netanyahu. “In most cases under an hour, and even less than that.”

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