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Saturday, 24 September 2011

Israel Railway Workers ordered back to work, Rapid Bus Transit System proposed for the Sharon Region, Israel to learn from China to improve Transportation, Work begins on the Tel Aviv Light Railway

Israel Railway Workers ordered back to work

Following Thursday's strike by railway workers in Israel over concerns of the privatisation of Israel Railways, the Labour Court ordered workers to return to work on Friday afternoon.  The Court required both the workers Union and Israel Railways to return to negotiations aspreviously mandated.

At Wednesday's meeting between Israel Railways and the Union, railway workers were offered an extensive assurances following any privatisation, with it proposed that maintenance would continue to be conducted by Israel Railway workers for the next 20 years according to Haaretz.

Rapid Bus Transit System proposed for the Sharon Region
Globes are reporting that Ayalon Highways are planning to publish a tender by the end of 2011 for a Rapid Bus Transit System in the Sharon Region of Israel to begin operating by February 2015.
A Rapid Bus Transit System is a quicker and more efficient bus network, achieved through improving existing road infrastructure, buses and schedules.
The first tender worth 1 billion Shekels s for the infrastructure work alongside and beneath existing roads, along which the new bus network will run.  There will also be further tenders to procure large-capacity buses and build bus stops.
The Sharon Region Rapid Bus Transit system will comprise three major bus lines with bus lanes as currently exists in Jerusalem.
Line 1 will run from Greater Tel Aviv and include Kfar Saba, Raanana and Herzliya.
Lines 2 will run via the Moreshet Interchange on Road 4 between Kfar Saba and Tel Aviv.
Line 3 will run along Road 2 from Tel Aviv to Raanana and Herzliya.
Each bus will be able to carry 200 passengers and will have a frequency between 3 minutes and 5 minutes.
The network will see the introduction of bus lanes along all routes as currently exists in Jerusalem.

Israel to learn from China to improve Transportation
Israel Katz, Transport Minister in Israel has this week reached an agreement with the Chinese Transport Minister Li Shenglin to share their ideas on transport infrastructure, according to China's People's Daily.  Israel Katz would like to see how Israel could adpot similar ideas to the High Speed Rail Network and light rail systems already working well in China.

Work begins on the Tel Aviv Light Railway
Following years of planning physical work this week began on the Tel Aviv Light Railway.  The Tel Aviv Light Railway is scheduled to start operating in 2017.  The intensive infrastructure work which will cause most disruption is scheduled to take place between 2013 and 2015 when the tunnels and stations are built.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Green Transportation Week in Israel, EL AL sign agreement with WestJet

Green Transportation Week in Israel

As part of the Green Transportation week in Israel the Jerusalem Post is reporting that 400 bikers and rollerbladers will converge in Tel Aviv this evening.  The event being organised by the Israel Bike Association begins at 9pm at the Cinematheque Plaza and will follow a 25km route.

The bikers association are using this week as a launch-pad to make cycling in Israel safer and more convenient.  For example the association are working with Israel Railways to provide bike hooks and holsters for bikes to be stored on trains.

EL AL sign agreement with WestJet

El Al last week signed an agreement with Canadian WestJet airline so that passengers flying on El AL from Israel to Toronto Airport will now be able to purchase connecting flight tickets on WestJet to 30 Canadian airports, Florida and the Caribbean.  El Al's Matmid Frequent Flyers will receive an additional 20% in points for join El AL - WestJet flights booked fro November 2011.

El AL already has similar agreements with JetBlue, American Airlines and Virgin America.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Railway Workers in Israel could Strike on Wednesday and New Eye Test for Drivers

Railway Workers in Israel could Strike on Wednesday

Following the announcement last week by the Railways Workers Union in Israel that they may strike over the privatisation of Israel Railways, the Labour Court yesterday granted the Union permission to strike, but has required the Union and Israel Railways to conduct negotiations.

The next meeting is scheduled for this Wednesday after which the Union will decide whether to continue with the negotiations or begin a strike.

New Eye  Test for Drivers

Following the introduction of a new regulation in Israel,  from the beginning of 2012 citizens who are aged 40 or above will now be required to have a vision test every 10 years to maintain their driving licence.

The Ministry of Transport has therefore started sending out letters to drivers whose driving licences are due for renewal in 2012 and are aged 40 or over, to require them to have the new vision test before their licence can be renewed.  The new regulation was introduced following a study by the Gertner Institute for Medical Policy which found that drivers with impaired vision, may affect their ability to drive and endanger themselves and others.

The new regulation will also require drivers aged 70 and above to have an eye examination every 5 years.  Drivers aged 80 and above will require an eye test every 2 years.

Friday, 16 September 2011

El Al banning liquids on flights to the USA and Railway Workers in Israel to Strike

El Al banning liquids on flights to the USA 

El Al has announced that from Monday 19th September 2011, passenger's on it's flights to the USA will no longer be able to carry liquids in bottles larger than 100ml on their flights, following a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Railway Workers in Israel to Strike

The Railway Workers Union in Israel have announced that they will strike over the Government's proposed privatisation of Israel Railways according to Globes.  The strike dates are yet to be announced.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Prices for new Rishon LeZion to Tel Aviv Railway, Israel and the Czech Republic sign aviation agreement

Prices for new Rishon LeZion to Tel Aviv Railway

With the launch of the the Tel Aviv to southern Rishon LeZion railway this month, the prices (still to be approved by the Transport Ministry) are set to be 15 Shekels, according to Globes, the same price as between Tel Aviv and the existing Rishon LeZion station.  The cost of a bus journey is 6.40 Shekels between Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion.

Israel and the Czech Republic sign aviation agreement

Israel and the Czech Republic have signed an aviation agreement to increase the number of passenger flights between the two countries from 12 to 36 flights.

Globes - What is the matter with Israeli Transport

Following the recent protests in Israel over socio-economic issues Globes have an interesting piece about the problems with transport in Israel.

Lack of gov't continuity blights transport planning

In the 15 years since the Jerusalem light rail was approved, there have been ten ministers of transport.

33 minutes at 8 am. This is the amount of time it takes, according to Ayalon Highways Ltd., to pass through Israel's most congested stretch of road - the 12-kilometer along Road 20 (the Ayalon Highway) from southern entrance into Tel Aviv from Road 1 (the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway).
This lost time carries a heavy economic price: the study estimates the loss at 12 workdays per traveler. The situation has improved slightly since this study was published, following the open of the fast lane along Road 1, but no relief in congestion can be expected at the other entrances to the city. 10 workdays are lost entering Tel Aviv from Road 5 via Glilot Interchange, and from the Road 20 entrance from Rishon LeZion and Road 2 (the Coastal Highway) from Herzliya. The average speed on the main roads in the Dan region (metropolitan Tel Aviv) during morning traffic does not surpass 40 km - the speed one rides a bicycle.
Public transportation in the Dan region is incapable of providing a suitable alternative to private cars. Metropolitan Tel Aviv has no subway, and construction on the light rail has just begun. The reform in bus routes is far from a success, and the suburban train provides only a partial solution. The train does not reach a large number of areas, and in some areas the frequency is low resulting from a lack of trains and from bottlenecks on tracks along Road 20.
Outside of the Dan region, the situation is even worse: until the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem high-speed rail line is completed, at some point towards the end of the decade, the only option available to those traveling to Jerusalem is the Turkish line that was built in 1892. Congestion on Road 1 will continue to worsen in the coming years, due to construction to widen the road between Sha'ar Hagai and the entrance to Jerusalem. The only road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that will remain relatively open is Road 443, with its abundance of roadblocks, because the road runs through the West Bank.
The general feeling that public transportation in Israel lags far behind its counterparts other advanced countries is backed by statistics: the rate roads are paved lags far behind the growth in the number of private cars. Israel is located at the bottom of OECD countries in meters of road per thousand residents. The corresponding statistic for trains puts Israel much lower than other small, densely populated countries like the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
The feeling that traffic is getting worse is also based on solid evidence. Since 1970, the number of private cars in Israel has grown by 1,100%, while the length of paved roads has only grown by 95%. The forecasts are not optimistic: by 2020 the number of private cars is expected to grow by another 30%, from 2.3 million to 3 million, according to the chief scientist at the Ministry of Transport.
Government instability
Who is responsible for the situation? Surprisingly, the lack of a budget is not the cause for the failure to develop transportation infrastructure. The government is not begrudged budgets for transportation, as it apparently does in other areas like health, education, and welfare. The transportation budget grew 84% between 2000 and 2008. Between 2005 and 2015, the government is due to allocate more than NIS 100 billion for the development of transportation infrastructure: NIS 21 billion was allocated to the Israel National Roads Company Ltd. in 2006-11, and another NIS 27 billion has been budgeted for the next five years. In 2004, Israel Railways initiated a NIS 30 billion multi-year plan to develop a network of tracks and trains, and an additional NIS 27.5 billion for roads and trains have been approved to pay for Minister of Transport Israel Katz's Israel highway plan to facilitate travel from the periphery to the center of Israel.
The numbers look very impressive on paper, but there is a dramatic gap between planning and execution. The actual amount invested in infrastructure has actually been falling over the last few years, according to a BDO Ziv Haft study for the Association of Contractors and Builders in Israel. The gross rate of investment fell to 2.18% of GDP in 2010 from 2.6% in 2009. The average rate of investment in the early 2000s was 3.5%.
Most of the blame for hindering the development of infrastructure is due to government instability, at least according to government and public policy researchers like Golan Lahat. In an article that he recently published for the Citizens Empowerment Center in Israel, Lahat claims that the lack of governance adversely affects ministries' ability to function, and deepens the public's frustration.
Instead of developing and implementing long-term plans, ministries waste their time and resources putting out fires. One of the reasons for this is the high turnover of governments and transport ministers. Lahat cites the Jerusalem light rail as an example. In the 15 years that have passed since the route was approved in 1996, the government has changed six times, and there have been no fewer than ten transport ministers.
Lahat attributes the project's delays, and the disputes that have erupted between the government, the Jerusalem Municipality and franchisee CityPass, to the turnover of ministers, each of whom brought with him a change in policy and replacements in key positions. Israel's governance problem is also expressed itself in a different way.
The Finance Ministry's power
Lahat says that the second main culprit for the problem of governance in infrastructure is the Ministry of Finance. The first problem is over centralization in project management. Ministry of Finance officials intervene in every small decision, and preventing the flexibility needed to manage complex projects. "It is hard not to notice the difficulties resulting from the Ministry of Finance and its officials' political power," Lahat said.
Lahat also blames the Ministry of Finance for the decline in the quantity and quality of professional personnel at the Ministry of Transport, as well as in government companies. "The Ministry of Finance has been widening the already large gap in salaries for years, and the Ministry of Transport has been affected by a growing lack of civil engineers," he says. Low salaries are not the only problem hurting skilled manpower. The requirement to use tenders has turned the process of appointing senior personnel into a nightmare for applicants. An outstanding is the drama that developed following the appointment of a CEO for the light rail last year that turned into a scandal.
Lahat suggests giving the Ministry of Transport more authority and responsibility as one way to improve the situation, as well as giving it more flexibility in managing project budgets, deciding differential salary arrangements, and imposing personal responsibility on the minister and the director general in cases of professional failures, including non-implementation of work plans. He also suggests building more projects through joint public private partnerships (PPP), as was done for Road 6 (Cross-Israel Highway) and the Carmel tunnels. PPP was not used for the Jerusalem light rail.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Competitive Tender Bid Process Launched for the building of Netivot Train Station in Israel

The Transport Ministry In Israel has this week launched a competitive tender process for the building of the new Netivot Railway Station between Ashkelon and Bersheba in Israel.  This railway line is currently being built to improve transportation in the south of Israel with the centre.  The full requirements have been set out here.  The deadline for bids is 31 October 2011.

The requirements are that any proposals to build the new station include a modern railway station, with a platform length of 300 feet, passes underground.  The railway line will see journey times between Ashkelon and Bersheba of 50 minutes, with four trains an hour each way.  It is expected that the cost of the construction of the station will be 45 million Shekels.