(JTA) — Israel Railways launched a new fast connection between Jerusalem and Ben Gurion Airport, promising a 20-minute ride once glitches are worked out.
The new connection began operating free on Tuesday, The Marker reported, but passengers had to reserve a ticket online in advance of the journey.
One train is departing every hour currently, but the frequency will be increased in the coming months to four per hour, the report said. Each train carries up to 400 passengers. The ticket price from the Tel Aviv-area airport to Jerusalem will be under $5.
The new electric, high-speed train suffered a 25-minute delay on Thursday shortly after leaving the capital’s Yitzhak Navon Station opposite the main bus terminal, The Times of Israel reported. The delay caused the cancellation of the next train.
The $2 billion high-speed connection project, which was launched more than 10 years ago and has cost more than double its initial budget, was scheduled to be completed by March 2018, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told Ynet in 2016. Safety concerns caused the postponement of the launch date.
At 260 feet below ground, the Jerusalem terminal of the new train is one of the world’s deepest. Passengers told The Marker that navigating the terminal and descending in its elevators can easily take 10 minutes.
Transportation by train between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem used to take more than 90 minutes even though the cities are only 33 miles apart. Using the connection to the airport and switching trains there shortens the trip to about 45 minutes. The trip from Jerusalem to the airport takes about 40 minutes by road.
The high-speed rail runs for miles through mountains in a set of tunnels. Excavating the tunnels greatly complicated the project, causing a delay of approximately seven years and ballooning its budget.
Once fully operational, the train will save millions of dollars in lost productivity and make Jerusalem a more attractive seat for the high-tech industry, its proponents maintain.
Among the tunnels dug are two of Israel’s longest, each measuring 7 miles. The route also features Israel’s tallest bridge, at 311 feet, just outside Jerusalem.