Less than two weeks before Israel Railways opens the new line from Tel Aviv through the southern suburbs to Rishon LeZion, it has submitted proposed fares for approval by the Ministry of Transport. The proposed fare is the same as is currently charged from the existing station in Rishon LeZion, at Rishonim: NIS 15.00, which is 2.3 times higher than the bus fare (NIS 6.40).
This price effectively neutralizes the line's marketing advantage: if it was intended to be an efficient and fast alternative for those working in Tel Aviv, the ticket price, even if a monthly pass is purchased, is higher than the amount employees are reimbursed for travel expenses. Moreover, since the Dan area public transportation reform was implemented, travelers who have a multiple trip ticket with at least two trips remaining on the card may transfer to another bus route free of charge within 90 minutes of the first leg of the trip, a privilege not available to those traveling by train.
The fact that the fare is not a function of distance is outrageous. There are 17 kilometers between the Moshe Dayan station in Rishon LeZion, which is set to open in less than two weeks, and the Tel Aviv Central station. In contrast, there are 30 kilometers between Beit Shemesh and the Malha station in Jerusalem (next to the technological park), and yet the price for that trip is only NIS 7.5, half as much. The Beit Shemesh-Jerusalem route is also less direct, which means higher operating expenses.
The Ministry of Transport said, "Train fares are decided by a Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transportation inter-ministerial fares committee. The Ministry of Transport is trying to lower fares between Rishon LeZion and Tel Aviv. However, in comparison with the extremely low bus fares charged for bus trips in the Dan area, a reduction in train fares would add tens of millions of shekels to the government rail subsidy."
The Ministry of Finance said, "The fare set for the Rishon LeZion train line correlates to the fares in other cites in the outer ring of the Dan area (Rishon LeZion, Modiin, Kfar Saba) and reflects a subsidized price. Reducing the price of this line only would create a distortion compared with the other train lines, and would necessitate a price reduction across the board, estimated at tens of millions of shekels in government subsidies."
Israel Railways have yet to comment.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 14, 2011
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011