(JTA) – Israel Railways launched a new fast connection between Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion Airport, which, it said, will be extended to Tel Aviv next year.
The new connection, whose total journey time will be 28 minutes once extended, began operating free of charge Tuesday, The Marker reported, but passengers had to reserve a ticket online in advance of the journey.
Currently, the fast connection is operating at a partial debussing capacity of one train departure every hour. But in the coming months, the frequency will be increased to four departures per hour, the report said. Each train ride carries up to 400 passengers. The journey’s price from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem will be under $5 US.
The new electric, high-speed train suffered a 25-minute delay Thursday shortly after leaving the capital’s Yitzhak Navon Station near the centrally located International Convention Center opposite the city’s main bus terminal, the Times of Israel reported. The delay caused the cancellation of the next train.
The $2 billion US fast connection project, which was launched more than 10 years ago and has cost more than double its initial budget, was scheduled to be completed by March 2018, enabling millions of passengers annually to travel between Israel’s largest cities via its main airport, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told Ynet in 2016.
But delays connected to safety concerns caused the postponement of the launch date and the truncation of the trajectory.
The Jerusalem terminal of the new train is one of the world’s deepest, and passengers told The Marker that navigating the terminal and descending in its elevators can easily take 10 minutes.
Transportation by train between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem used to take more than 90 minutes even though the cities are only 33 miles apart. Using the connection to the airport and switching trains there shortens the trip to about 45 minutes.
The bulk of passengers therefore travel for 50 to 70 minutes by bus or minibus on congestion-prone roads.
The fast connection project runs for miles through the mountains in a set of tunnels. Once fully operational it is expected to save the economy millions in lost productivity and make Jerusalem a more attractive seat for the high-tech industry, among other sectors, currently centered around Tel Aviv.
The excavation of tunnels greatly complicated the project and delayed its deadline by approximately seven years. It is also the reason its budget ballooned.
Among the tunnels dug are two of Israel’s longest, each measuring seven miles. The route also features Israel’s tallest bridge, at 311 feet, just outside the Israeli capital.