03/14/2011 01:57

Public pressure campaign launched against Israel Railways to sink train tracks in massive local project.
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The city of Haifa and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) launched a public pressure campaign against Israel Railways on Sunday urging the national railroad to sink the train tracks through the city underground.

Israel Railways is planning a massive project to convert its trains to run on electricity rather than fuel. While the project includes 420 kilometers of track, there are seven kilometers in the lower city of Haifa along the coast, where the municipality and SPNI object to the placement of electricity poles spaced as little as 20 meters apart.

According to the city of Haifa and SPNI, the tracks separate the city from the coast and those seven kilometers especially are considered sensitive areas from an ecological perspective. The municipality would like the railroad to run the tracks into a tunnel along those seven kilometers and thereby allow contiguity between the upper city, the lower city, and the coast.

Doing so, SPNI Haifa head Ella Alexandri said, by way of example, would allow the Bahai Gardens and the German Colony to continue expanding farther down the slope.

The two also quoted from a Committee to Preserve the Coastal Environment decision from October of last year that, while approving the plan to electrify the trains, said a subterranean alternative in Haifa was necessary.

“This is the fight over the future of Haifa,” Mayor Yona Yahav said in a statement, “We will transfer the fight from the air-conditioned conference rooms of the government ministries to the streets of the city. Aboveground electrification of the train will kill the city – sinking the iron rails that cross through Haifa for seven kilometers will bring about growth.

“Enough! Now is the time for war, it is time to take off our ties and go out to fight for the future of the city,” he said. “The electrification [of the train] will never take place during my tenure! I won’t allow the standard of living of 270,000 city residents and another 500,000 from the metropolitan area to be compromised.

I will not allow the natural treasures that Haifa has been blessed with to be destroyed. There will be no greater damage than ringing the Haifa coast with electric cables,” he declared.

Alexandri added, “The existing parks along the coast and the ones in the planning stages, as well as the tourism area being planned for the Ben-Gurion route will be seriously visually marred. The damage will be multiplied by the fact that the path of the tracks is windy and will therefore require a lot of poles.”