Politics threatens progress on major new rail line


Netivei Israel-The National Transport Infrastructure Company and Israel Railways are working together on the Eastern Railways project, which will run between Hadera and Lod alongside Road 6. The major project will be an alternative to the coastal route, which is already at full capacity, and will allow an increase in freight capacity. 

The section being built by Netivei Israel is on open land from Hadera to the Sharon suburban loop, while Israel Railways is building the section from the Sharon loop to Lod.

Because the section being undertaken by Netivei Israel is on open land and will take less time to complete, that section – between Hadera and Rosh Ha’ayin – will be opened in 2025, before the entire Eastern Railway is completed.

Allegations about Israel Railways’ conduct

On the eve of Passover, Netivei Israel chairman Yigal Amedi, who was seen alongside Transportation Minister Miri Regev at a Likud event, sent a letter to Israel Railways chairman Moshe Shimoni, who is trying to oust CEO Michael Maixner, despite opposition from the Government Companies Authority and Finance Ministry. 

The letter contains allegations about the conduct of Israel Railways and its cooperation with Netivei Israel to bring about an early opening of the line.

Michael Maixner, CEO Israel Railways. (credit: ISRAEL RAILWAYS)

According to Netivei Israel’s chairman, insufficient manpower has been allocated by Israel Railways, insufficient activity has been undertaken, and not enough data have been transferred since the agreements between the companies were signed at the end of last year. Netivei Israel also demands more manpower for work on weekends and nights, even though under the current government it has actually been decided to reduce Shabbat work.

In fact, the early operation of the line was initiated by Maixner. The plan and schedules were presented to the Naftali Bennett government together with an offer to extend the tender with the existing electrification contractor. That was done in order to speed up the operation of the line, instead of opening a tender for a new contractor that could delay its opening to 2028.

In a letter sent to government ministries, Israel Railways wrote, “The date of commercial operations of the Eastern Rail in its entirety is planned for the start of 2027, but since Netivei Israel is expected to finish the infrastructure works under its responsibility in August 2025, the Israel Railways CEO ordered the line will operate commercially in a phased way, so that in the first phase services will be operated on the Eastern Rail (northern route) directly to Tel Aviv. In this way, the project will produce revenue about a year before the original starting date.”

The letter raises questions both due to its timing on the holiday eve, while also in the midst of attempts to oust Maixner, and due to the relationship of the chairmen to Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who is working to oust the Israel Railways CEO.

LAST WEEK, Israel Railways’ Shimoni, appointed by Transportation Minister Miri Regev, summoned the board to discuss appointing an external legal adviser to the board of directors to oversee the process of removing Maixner. The official reason was the issue of the carriage procurement, which was not progressing, however, the Finance Ministry clarified the next day that the procurement is actually progressing properly thanks to the CEO.

Reports say that Maixner has refused to appoint a Likud activist as the company’s vice president. Other reports add that the board has frozen dozens of appointments until after the CEO is ousted.

The Government Companies Authority warned last week that ousting Maixner could cause upheaval at the company and harm the services it provides and that there was no reason to dismiss the CEO.