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Sunday, 27 February 2011

Ber Sheva and Dimona Rail Services suspended next week and Jaffa Road Transformation

Kiryat Gat - Dimona via Ber Sheva Rail Line closed next week

From Friday 4th March until Saturday 12th March the Kiryat Gat to Dimona train line via Ber Sheva will be suspended for engineering works.  The service will return to normal on Sunday 13th March.

The stations closed will be Lehavim-Rahat, Ber Sheva North, Ber Sheva University, Ber Sheva Central and Dimona.

Bus operators will provide an increased service between Tel Aviv and Ber Sheva during this period and Israel Railways are also planning to provide a replacement bus service between some of the stations closed.

Los Angeles Times Reports on the transformation of Jaffa Road

The transformation of Jaffa Road in Jerusalem is making news in America with a piece on  Jerusalem's main thoroughfare to a pedestrianised route for the new Jerusalem Light Rail is appearing in the Los Angeles Times Newspaper.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Road Safety Committee has first meeting in the Knesset

The Jerusalem Post has a report on the first meeting of the Road Safety Sub-Committee in Israel's Knesset, which took place on Tuesday 22 February 2011.  This follows the decision in January to set up the committee to look at ways of reducing road accidents in Israel.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Israeli Technology on iphone helps to improve road safety

New Israeli technology designed for the iphone, allows users to use a free application to record and report bad driving by other motorists, as reported on Janglo.
The 'Traffic Observer' application has been designed by Zemingo, allows drivers to place their Iphone on the dashboard and it's camera records the road with images saved too a limited 2 minutes.  If a person see's any bad driving or an application, all the driver has to do is pull over and press a button on the phone and the recording with the GPS position is sent to a YouTube account where volunteers from the National Road Safety Committee filter it.   Where illegal activity has occured the police will be contacted.
The volunteers track down the violators of the less severe cases and replay for them their recorded driving behavior as an educational tool.
The application is currently only available in Israel but Zemingo are hoping other organisations will take up the technology around the world.

Israel wants more electric cars, More cars hit the Jerusalem Tram and Gasoline Prices to rise again - Thursday 24th February 2011

Israel wants more electric cars

Uzi Landau - the National Infrastructure Minister in Israel - has said that it is a mission of Israel  to create an "open, competitive and safe market (for electric cars) that will meet international standards and place the consumer in the center."  The Minister is looking for their to be other suppliers of electric cars as well as the Israeli company Better Place, acccording to Globes.

More cars hit the Jerusalem Tram

In two seperate incidents yesterday the Jerusalem Post reports cars jumped the traffic lights in Jerusalem on and hit trains which were being tested on the new light rail line Jerusalem. This follows an earlier crash this month.  City Pass have said this is the second incident during testing as a resulting of drivers jumping red lights.

EL AL Staff

Globes is reporting that EL AL and the Histadrut Union have agreed improved conditions for their employees.

Gasoline Prices in Israel

Despite the decision of the  Government in Israel to reduce the tax on gasline prices this month, Israeli motorists are likely to be hit by rising petrol prices again in March.  Haaretz is reporting that as a result of the instability in Libya the price of oil has increased which is likely to push prices up by 2.5% in March.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Bus Ridership increases in Israel

Globes has reported that between 2004 and 2009 bus usage in Israel increased by 24% to 509 million passengers.

Egged is the largest bus operator with 47% of the market and Dan has 34% of the market.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Bus and Train Fares Cut - Monday 21 February 2011

The Cabinet yesterday formally agreed a cut in the cost of public transport fares for passengers in Israel.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu said that this is a way of the Government encouraging further use of public transport as an alternative to the car.

Bus passengers will see monthly tickets fall by 10% and will also be able to puchase a 'transfer' ticket on inter-city routes which they will than be able to use on another bus within an hour and a half for no additional fee.  While for rail passengers their monthly tickets will fall by 11.5%.

Fares in the periphery will also be cut by an average of 10%.

It is expected that the cost of these price reductions will cost the Government budget an extra 300 million Shekels, which will be covered by other departmental budgets being cut by 1%.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

How to save money on your bus journey in Israel

If you are travelling around Israel by bus it is likely that at some point you will use an Egged bus,the main bus company in Israel.  You can save money on your journey by purchasing:

- a Kartisiya - a ticket which can be used multiple times, which saves 20%.
- a 2-trip ticket, which allows for 2 journeys either on 1 bus by 2 people or 1 person on 2 journeys, which saves 15%.
- a Hodshi-Hofshi monthly ticket, which has different prices for various areas and routes covered by Egged.
- a Hofshi Yom one day pass for certain routes which can be used after 9am.
- a continuing ticket which allows for 1 journey on an intercity bus followed by a journey within a city.
- a Rav-Kav card (using RFID technology) for use on certain routes.

Discounts are also available for children, youth and pupils, students, the disabled and senior citizens.  

Friday, 18 February 2011

Bus Subsidies will see worse roads and proposed new airlines to fly from Israel to India and China

Bus and Train Fares cut but resulting in less road improvements

The Prime Minister this week announced that the price of petrol and public transport will fall but Haaretz is now reporting that the Cabinet will be asked to vote on Sunday for the subsidy to cover lower bus and train fares to be covered by reducing the government budget for building and maintaining roads.

New flights to India and China

As tourism between Israel and the Far East increases Ynet reports that the Chinese Hainan Airline is considering introducing direct flights between Ben Gurion Airport and China.  Indian Airlines is also considering introducing direct flights to Ben Gurion Airport.  El Al is currently the only airline to offer direct flights to India and China.  Any new competition should see cheaper flights.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Tel Aviv Light Rail Line - Update Rapid Bus Scheme to be introduced from 2013

Following the publishing last week of the tender document for the light rail line which is proposed to open in Tel Aviv in 2017, it has been announced that by 2013 a 'rapid transit bus route' will open along the same route between Bat Yam and Peta Tikva.  This will involve bus only lanes on major roads in Tel Aviv and the buses will also be able to hold more passengers and come more frequently than traditional buses.

Protest against bus changes in Jerusalem and a new way to make your train journey quicker - Thursday 17th February 2011

Bus Route Protests in Jerusalem

Following the recent changes to bus routes in Jerusalem which has seen buses diverted from Jaffa Street to  Agripas Street, the traders of Mahane Yehuda protested against Transport Minister Yisrael Katz and brought traffic to a standstill as reported on Ynet.

Speed up your train journey

ScienceDaily has an article about a new computer program designed at Tel Aviv University which will improve train journeys.  The computer programme allows for passengers to plan their journeys more effectively especially when using more than one train on a journey so as to cut down waiting time.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Petrol Prices fall, Toll Road Extended and Road Safety - News Monday 14th February 2011

Gasoline Prices Lowered Today

As reported on Friday following public pressure the Government removed the VAT increase on petrol today, which they had introduced on 1 January 2011.  The price of 95 gasoline has therefore been cut by 0.23 shekels to 7.03 shekels.

Highway 6 Toll Road to be Extended

Israel's Highway 6 Toll Road, according to Globes, will be extended southwards from Lahavim to Shoket (near Bersheva) Globes has reported today.  Highway 6 will also be extended northwars from Yokneam to Somekh (north east of Haifa).  The Transport Minister Israel Katz said that this extension is part of a "national network of highways and railways from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat."

Road Safety Campaigner

Israel21c has written about the road safety group in Israel People in Red.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Tender launched for new Tel Aviv Light Rail, Transport and Petrol Prices to fall and Protests against Jerusalem Light Rail - Friday 11th February News

Government to cut Petrol and Public Transport Prices in Israel

Following recent public pressure over the increasing cost of living in Israel including over higher gasoline prices, the Jerusalem Post reports that the Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu announced a package of measures to ease the cost of living for the public in Israel.  In the Transport arena these included:

- the cancellation of the 0.23 Shekel increase in petrol tax introduced on 1 January 2011.
- a 10% reduction in bus and rail fares.

Tender Process Launched for Design of Tel Aviv Light Rail

The NTA Mass Transit System, the Government owned organisation responsible for the new light rail system in Tel Aviv has launched a tender for the designs of the first line's underground tunnels and station.  The tender  document can be found here.  The tram line is due to run betwen Bat Yam and Petah Tikvah via Tel Aviv,  Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak

Protests in London against operator of the Jerusalem Light Rail

Anti-Israel protestors this week campaigned at a public meeting in London against Veolia the company operating the Jerusalem Light Rail according to Jewish News, protests have occured around Europe against Veolia because of its activities in Jerusalem, Israel.  These protests were condemned as a disgrace by the London Assembly Member Brian Coleman who was attending the meeting.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Car crashes into Jerusalem Tram - Thursday 10th February News

During the testing of the new Jerusalem light rail line on Tuesday an accident occurred when a car went through a red light in the French Hill neighbourhood of Jerusalem and crashed into a tram.  The tram and the car were damaged but there were no injuries the Jerusalem Post reports.

This again shows how Israel's problem with road safety and traffic accidents is again down to Israeli drivers not properly following the laws of the road.  The accident was caused by the driver going through a red light and so it was lucky that no one was injured as injuries or fatalities are likely to occur when road laws are broken.  This accident was not caused by the new tram system but by the driver going through a red light and in another place the car could have hit a pedestrian, car or even a train.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Gasoline Prices - Why prices are unlikely to fall soon - Wednesday 9th February 2011

After the news yesterday that the Government is working on solutions to reduce petrol prices in Israel, Globes has an interesting opinion piece saying that prices will not fall.

Globes explains that this is because the Government always planned to increase tax on gasoline so as to raise more funds in 2011 and 2012 to pay for the rising levels of public spending.  The approved budget for 2011-2012 estimated that the increased tax on petrol would raise a further 16.6 billion shekels in 2011 a rise from 2010 of 12.6% with a further 18.8 billion shekels in 2012 a further increase of 11.4%.

Despite the protests over the high price of petrol Globes predicts that the high price will not deter people from driving and so buying petrol as people will continue to need to travel just as much as before and do not feel that public transport provides a viable alternative.  Also many workers have their employers pay for their fuel costs and so do not feel the pain, while the increase has not yet been enough to scare of employers and persuade their staff to drive less.

The piece ends by predicting that as fuel becomes more expensive it will encourage the use of electric cars such as those produced by Better Place as they become a more viable alternative.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Petrol Price Concern and new planes for El Al - Tuesday 8th February 2011 News

Concern over Gasoline Prices

Benjamin Netanyahu - Prime Minister of Israel and Yuval Steinitz the Minister of Finance yesterday faced harsh criticism from their Likud Knesset faction - as reported in Haaretz - over the recent rises in petrol prices.  Globes meanwhile has said that the Prime Minister and Finance Minister have been meeting together with representatives of the Bank of Israel  to develop a plan of action.  A possible solution could be to give more workers income tax credits because of the rising costs they have.  There is also a suggestion that the rising tax revenue from petrol could be used to fund an extra 300 million to 500 million Shekels for subsidies to public transport.

El Al buys new planes

El Al has bought four new Boeing 737-900 planes to replace their Boeing 757s which are used for flights to Europe.  The planes are scheduled to enter service in 2013 which will see passenger capacity increased.  The full story can be read at Globes.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Speeding Driver Caught on Facebook - News Monday 7th February

A driver was stripped of his driving licence in Israel - Haaretz has reported - after the Acre Traffic Court was shown evidence from Facebook filmed by his friends from Ocotober 2010 of the driver driving a BMW at 260km/hr on the coastal highway toward Haifa

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Trains Suspended on the Tel Aviv - Jerusalem - Bet Shemesh Line

As reported earlier in the week between Friday 4th February and Friday 11th February the Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Bet Shemesh train line will be suspended.    The Ber Sheeva to Tel Aviv train line will also be suspended.  This is to allow for the engineering works to the line so that the the journey time can be reduced to 50 minutes between Tel Aviv and Ber Sheeva.

The closed stations next week between 4th February and 11th February will be:

Jerusalem Malha
Jerusalem Biblical Zoo
Bet Shemesh
Kiryat Gat
Ber Sheva North University
Ber Sheva Central

To help compensate for the inconvenience there will be increased bus services between Ber Sheva and Tel Aviv.
A replacement shuttle bus will run in both directions between Lehavim-Rahat, Kiryat Gat and Tel Aviv.
There will also be a special bus service between Bet Shemesh and Lod.

The engineering work will include the laying of a double turnout at Na'an Station, adding a 2nd line between Lod Station and Na'an Station, and setting up new points and diversion along this section of track.

Full information can be found at the Israel Railways website.

Warning about Fake bus tickets in Jerusalem

Egged have warned users of buses in Jerusalem to only buy tickets from bus drivers and authorized ticket places after a number of users were found to be using fake tickets and monthly passes sold by a private distributor.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Israel Leading the Way with Anti-Congestion Measures

January was a busy month in Israel as schemes were rolled out to try and reduce the level of congestion.  In just the first month of 2011 Israel has become a global leader in delivering schemes which attempt to reduce congestion along the country's most bus roads.  During the first three weeks of the year Israel opened the first variable priced toll lane in the world, shut Jaffa Street the main thoroughfare through the capital Jerusalem, and the increased level of tax on petrol prices.

In other countries around the world governments have for many years been attempting to introduce policies that tackle the level of congestion on their roads but as in Britain have usually been unsuccessful in the face of public hostility.  For instance the previous Government's policy in Britain to widen the road pricing policy out of London was defeated by a nationwide petition and public referendums in Manchester and Edinburgh.  So why has Israel been successful at delivering these innovative anti-motorist policies?

Part of the reason may lie in the fact that in recent years Israel has become an innovative high-tech economy and last year achieved membership of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  Israeli citizens have therefore become receptive to innovative solutions and schemes which they can see will enhance their lives.  It is no coincidence that a country which has been built and developed by pioneers and seen the desert bloom is now leading the way in the 21st Century with technological innovations.

On 7th January 2011 a new toll lane was opened on Road 1 between Ben Gurion International Airport and the entrance of Tel Aviv.  Anyone that has tried to travel into Tel Aviv by road any working day knows how they have suffered from terrible congestion which often more than doubles the journey time into Israel's busiest working city.   Israel's Government therefore took the decision to create a new toll lane to offer a quicker alternative route into Tel Aviv.  This 'Fast Lane' project being run by Shapir Engineering Ltd with the technological support of Siemens allows motorists to pay to travel along the 13 mile route at a normal speed rather than travel at a snail's pace.  In order to use the lane motorists either need to register in advance or travel through a toll booth at an interchange and are later automatically charged when their registration plate is recognised by a camera.  In the first of a kind scheme anywhere in the world the price of the journey is determined by the level of congestion at that time and can vary anywhere from 6 shekels to 60 shekels.  Commuters are also offered an alternative to the car; as a new free park & ride interchange has opened ahead of the entrance to the Fast Lane, which takes commuters into the centre of Tel Aviv.  Vehicles with four or more people are also able to travel on the 'fast lane' for free.

While the launch of the scheme was inaugurated with some complaints that only the rich would benefit from the new toll 'fast lane', the initial few weeks appear to have been a success.  At the end of January the schemes operators are reporting that the lane is being well used while the price has been limited to the minimum price of 6 shekels.  By the end of January the 'fast lane' was operating is at 80% of capacity and according to Nitzan Yotzer the head of operations the new lane already carries more traffic than any of the other lanes on the Road 1.   The operators are therefore predicting that this could be the first of many road-charging schemes into Tel Aviv.

The middle of January also saw the closure of Jaffa Road the major thoroughfare through Jerusalem to all traffic.  This is anticipation of the launch of Israel's first light rail line, which when it travels through the city centre will be the only form of transport along Jaffa Road other than pedestrians.   The introduction of the pedestrianized city centre has led to journeys through Jerusalem becoming slightly more difficult as motorists are restricted to other routes.  However, after many years of road works in the city to prepare for the new light rail line residents are now able to enjoy a nicer city centre and are able to look forward to what could be an exciting and convenient way to travel through Jerusalem.

Most controversial has been the increased tax on petrol that has seen Israel's petrol prices rise to some of the highest in the world.  Whilst Israeli's have accepted the other policies to deter driving, there have been more complaints about the rising price of petrol.  This may be because the Government is attempting to raise more revenue and deter driving  but -   as there are other pressures on Government spending - do not appear to be reinvesting the increased revenue from motorists back into improving public services.  Members of the governing Likud party have therefore started to question whether more can be done to keep petrol prices as low as possible, especially if prices were to rise as the Middle East becomes more unstable.

What may therefore be the case is that while Israelis do look forward to innovative high-tech solutions to reducing congestion on the roads, they are much like people all over the world.  Where the public can see that they are paying a cost for a better service such as a quicker journey or a nicer city they are prepared to pay the price.    However, where they get nothing in return for paying more as in the case with rising petrol taxes we may see more complaints and protests.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Petrol Prices Rise and Israel German bilateral agreement - Tuesday 1st February 2011

Petrol Price Rise

Gasoline prices to were increased by 1.68% today to a record high of 7.26 shekels (following an earlier rise at the beginning of January) caused by the rising cost of crude oil.  Globes is reporting that member of the Likud Party in the Knesset are pressuring the Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu and the Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to stop any further increase in the price of petrol.

The rising cost of gasoline may see the Shai Agassi -  owner of electric car promoter Bette Place - prediction come true that by 2020 more people will be buying electric cars than petrol fuelled cars.

Israel - Germany Agreement

During the recent bilateral meetings between Angela Merkel the German Chancellor and Benjamin Netenyahu an agreement was reached to strengthen cooperation in the area of rail transport.  The German Government will encourage German consulting firms and infrastructure companies to take part in transport projects in Israel such as the Eilat railroad project.  There will also be cooperation in the area of electric mobility such as with the Better Car company and on innovations for sustainable mobility.