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RIDING HIGH

RIDING HIGH

Following a revolutionary overhaul of the public transport system in Haifa, Yefe Nof is on the verge of launching a cable railway line

In recent years, the Israeli Ministry of Transport resolved to promote and advance the priorities of public transport and infrastructure, instead of encouraging private vehicles and expansion of roads. Being a branch of the Minisrty of Transport, Haifa's Yefe Nof company, a municipal corporation, has been working for years to advance this vision within the city limits, but also outside of city jurisdiction and at the whole metropolis area.

Lena Oster, Director of Planning Division, Infrastructure Department and Rizik Sa'id, Community Relations Manager, detail the company's activity: "Most of our efforts are directed at the development of public transport. In fact, we were early to advance a plan for 40 kilometers of Metronit (BRT) in the Haifa metropolis. There are two metropolitan areas: the narrow one, which includes Haifa, Tirat HaCarmel, the Krayot and Acre; and the wider metropolitan area that includes Nazareth, Upper Nazareth and Safed, where we sometimes work as well.

"Talking about the narrow metropolitan area, we are currently at the final stages of building and renovating Merkazit HaMifratz (Haifa Bay Central Bus Station). The project comprises a 300-meters-long bridge platform for the Valley Railway, a terminal building covering an area of some 9,000 square meters, a bridge connecting the structure and platform, a drainage conduit that partly passes under active railways, development and paving works.

"What happens today at the central station is that it turns to be an essential factor in public transport, which will combine all available means of public transport in one place. This is where train lines will meet - the coast railway passes through the station and includes a new line of heavy rail to Beit Shean, meaning two railways will converge at the same area; various BRTs to Haifa and the Krayot; The cable car will also stop here; and in the future Yefe Nof and Cross Israel are planning a light rail to Nazareth. Needless to say, all buses are also centered here.

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"The new cable line will connect Haifa to its bay area. We call it the University Line, because it will connect the wider bay area with the Technion and the University. The cable car is a tender-based cooperation between the State and a contractor named Doppelmayr, from Germany. There are only three suppliers of cars and cables in the world; it is a very complicated field: not only are there different types of cables, there are also different types of cars.

"Haifa began plans for the cable railway 20 years ago. There already is a cable car line the goes from Bat Galim to Stella Maris, which is a tourist line, and is not part of the public transportation system of the city; it is actually cut off from all other systems. The new cable railway, however, will be part of the public transport, so if, for example, one learns at the Technion and comes from the Krayot, they can ride a Metronit to the bay area, and with the same ticket board the cable car to the Technion. It is also a tremendous time saver.

"Dopplmayr have a representative in Israel that accompanies us in planning and execution. A few weeks ago, we put out a tender for carrying out civil engineering works to erect six stations and thirty support columns. It is a very difficult work, because you have to settle on the mountain's slopes, and bring all the engineering equipment to very small places, without damaging nature. All stations and layout are coordinated with Dopplmayr – the cable car can travel in straight lines only, so there has to be a stop at every corner. This project incited the whole country, and suddenly everyone wants cable cars, whether it is Eilat, the Dead Sea, Zichron Yaakov or Jerusalem.

"We perform the foundation work, prepare the infrastructure, build stations, and the Dopplmayr people bring the cars and the cables. The method here will be slightly different from that used in tourist sites abroad, where you wait for a loop to finish. We selected a method highly recommended by Dopplmayr and approved by the MOT: when there are no passengers, the cable rotates without cars; when the demand rises, there is a faster turnover of trams; the system adapts to the pace. The whole loop will take about 20 minutes.

"The work will be finished in two years, but it's going to take longer to do the tests, and there are a lot of issues of safety, of security, of interfacing with other means of public transport. Once you build something, you need to build an array to make it work, function, and be accessible, convenient and fast. This project has been cooking in Yefe Nof for twenty years, but we wait and in the end, we get to see it done. We have waited for twenty years with the Carmel tunnels. It took twenty years to establish the Metronit. In addition, the country does not easily digest innovations—bureaucracy consumes a lot of time. On the other hand, nothing happens without pioneers."