(Photo: Israel Railways)

Israel’s Transportation Ministry is developing plans to build the first light rail connection between Samaria and central Israeli cities.

If built, thousands of people in the Ariel bloc of communities will be able to travel to the nearby central Israeli cities of Petah Tikva and Rosh Ha’ayin, and from there to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Transportation Minister Israel Katz has given approval to the general scheme behind the project, but planning remains in its early stages, with three main alternatives being considered for the route.

One of the potential tracks also includes stops in the Elkana community and the Barkan industrial park, roughly halfway between Ariel and the central Israeli town of Rosh Ha’Ayin, as well as in the Israeli-Arab town of Kafr Kassem. Possible route lengths vary between 29 to 35 kilometers.

Ariel itself is home to approximately 20,000 residents, and the satellite communities around it house many thousands more. For them, Ariel is a hub around which they center – but many travel towards the greater Tel Aviv area to work each day.

Minister Katz has long envisioned a train in Judea and Samaria, strengthening their connection with the rest of Israel. At present, many communities are somewhat isolated, and building a train would be a vital step in integrating them and making them accessible for the many Israelis who do not own cars.

(Train in Israel heading to Ashkelon, Wikimedia Commons)

“The majority of Ariel residents work along the route of the [planned] train, which passes through the Barkan industrial zone” Minister Katz noted. “The new light rail will enable them to reach their workplaces, shopping centers, or entertainment venues quickly and safely” .

Such a move would have numerous other benefits too, such as reducing emissions, cutting travelling times, and reducing traffic on Israel’s packed roads.

The Barkan industrial park, located approximately 4 kilometers west of Ariel, is home to around 140 factories and 20 various service providers, employing around 7,000 workers. That number is expected to grow to 9,000 in the coming years. Linking Barkan to Ariel and central Israel is seen as a highly significant move, allowing for further expansion and development, helping bolster the local economy and strengthen the status of the Ariel bloc of communities.

Ariel mayor Eli Shaviro declared that a train would help cement Ariel’s place as the capital of Samaria, saying that “this is good news for the continued development of the city of Ariel. It has over 20,000 residents, an industrial park and a university with 15,000 students”.

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