Interior Ministry committee examining relocation of current maintenance site reportedly put the Yarkon River site high on its short list of candidates.
By Zafrir Rinat

Residents of the southern Sharon region had expected that after surviving the heightened construction activity in the area they would be rewarded, in a decade or so, with a lovely park along their stretch of the Yarkon River that will incorporate the adjacent farmland. But this 1,800-dunam (450-acre ) parcel of land is also being considered as the future home of an Israel Railways maintenance station.

Local residents will hold a meeting on Tuesday to organize before taking on the authorities.

An Interior Ministry committee examining the relocation of the current maintenance site in Bnei Brak has reportedly put the Yarkon River site high on its short list of candidates. The parcel, which is next to the Hagor and Neveh Yarak moshavim, is currently zoned on the regional master plan as part of the future river park.

The head of the Southern Sharon Regional Council, Moti Delijo, whose jurisdiction includes the land in question, recently wrote to Israel Railways Deputy CEO Yaron Ravid to express his opposition to the plan. The designated parcel is “just 160 meters from area homes,” Delijo wrote, adding that the location and size of the proposed maintenance station “constitute gross injury to the rural space and its future as part of Yarkon Park.”

According to Delijo, “One of the goals of the park plan is to turn the Yarkon area from a backyard to the front yard of the area, while rehabilitating its ecosystem.”

He argued that building a maintenance station for railway cars subverts these goals and will perpetuate the site’s role as the backyard of the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area. He went on to argue that the proposed maintenance site could contaminate the soil and groundwater in the area with petroleum products, and would create air and noise pollution. Because much of the maintenance work of railway cars is carried out at night, Delijo wrote, the noise problem would be particularly acute.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is also against the plan. Officials says the new station should be built in or near an existing urban area, not in the heart of one of Greater Tel Aviv’s main “green lungs.”

The Yarkon River Authority opposes the plan, too. The proposed site “is part of the Yarkon River system and the open areas that should have appropriate activities, such as those benefiting nature preservation,” agency director David Pergament said.

Israel Railways confirmed in a statement that the parcel under question is one of 11 sites in the central region that are being considered for the new maintenance station.