Ministry summons Israel Railways for hearing after unusual levels of respirable particles and nitrogen dioxide measured at Tel Aviv HaShalom and Bat Yam Yoseftal train stations; rail company: ‘Ministry trying to shut down train movement to and from Tel Aviv.’
Ilana Curiel, Itay Blumenthal|Published: 03.01.17

The Environmental Protection Ministry warned on Tuesday of a growing concern for public health at the Tel Aviv HaShalom and Bat Yam Yoseftal train stations due to unusual levels of air pollution measured there, leading the Israel Railways to accuse the ministry of “working to shut down train movement in and out of Tel Aviv.”

The Environmental Protection Ministry, in conjunction with the Health Ministry, called on the public to spend as little time as possible on the train platforms at those stations. The warning particularly applies to high-risk groups, such as heart and lung patients, the elderly, children, and pregnant women.

According to the ministry’s statement, unusual levels of respirable particles (diesel particles) and nitrogen dioxide (a result of pollution coming from vehicles but also train engines) were measured at the stations. There is evidence that exposure to high levels of air pollutants increases the risk to public health.

The ministry summoned the heads of the Israel Railways to a hearing on the matter as part of the enforcement process.

Israel Railways released a statement in response, accusing the ministry of trying to “cause transportation chaos the likes of which we haven’t seen in many years.”

“Some 100,000 passengers a day will have to forgo the services of the train due to the Environmental Protection Ministry’s instructions, which in reality would mean stopping train movement to and from the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area. This would lead to the use of thousands of cars and buses instead of trains, which will increase the risks on the road and will not serve to reduce air pollution,” the train company said.

Israel Railways claimed the summoning for the hearing was unjustified and that the train has been taking “all means at its disposal to find immediate solutions for the issue, both in Israel and abroad.”

The company is currently in the midst of the electrificating of the railway system, which is expected to reduce air pollution. The first electricity-based line will run between Herzliya and Jerusalem and is expected to open within a few years.

“Since the train does not intend to act in violation with the law, the operative meaning of the ministry’s decision is the immediate closure—either full or partial—of train lines that go through Tel Aviv,” the Israel Railways charged.

“The Israel Railways will work to convince the Environmental Protection Ministry that the national interest requires the continuation of train movement in tandem with cooperation between the sides to find a solution to the issue.”,7340,L-4902497,00.html