Israel's railroads remain in the 19th century

The carriages that burned in last week's fire lacked smoke detectors and the locked doors could not be opened.

Even as passenger traffic on Israel Railways rises by 15% a year, the condition of the railroads lags far behind. Israel Railways' ability to build new lines lags the norms of the late 19th century. Even the Ottoman Turks knew how to build railway lines as complex as contemporary projects, and at a pace that Israel Railways can only dream about.

Israel Railways has been a government company since 2003, yet at the beginning of 2011, it lacks the authority to raise even one shekel in credit, even suppliers' credit. The government has not bothered to appoint an external supervisor to set professional standards and enforce minimal safety standards. The fact that the railway carriages that burned in last week's fire lacked smoke detectors and sprinklers, and that the locked doors could not be opened, should surprise no one.

Israel Railways' employees are responsible for this situation. They are known as serial supports of the party in power. They know that political power is the best safety certificate against change. When, six months ago, "Globes" disclosed a draft bill to reform Israel Railways, Minister of Transport Israel Katz hurried the very next day to disclaim any responsibility for it.

Israel Railways' management is chock full of ideas for improvement: electricification, outsourcing maintenance and project maintenance, and so on. But so long as the current conditions continue, Israel Railways' chances of reaching even the 20th century are not high.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 30, 2010

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2010

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