Fault closes Jerusalem rail link for most of Wed
1 February 2019 - globes
A locomotive pantograph disintegrated, and electricity was shut off so that the locomotive could be towed to Lod, taking up much of the day.
Railway traffic on the high-speed railway line between Ben Gurion Airport and Jerusalem was shut down until further notice due to a malfunction in one of the electric locomotives close to Daniel Junction. The locomotive was not in service at the time and did not carry a passenger train.
"During tests of one of the electric locomotives in the vicinity of Daniel Junction, the pantograph component disintegrated. Transportation service was ordered for the Jerusalem and Ben Gurion Airport stations," the announcement read. "The technical teams of Israel Railways and Bombardier are now dealing with the electric locomotive. The electrical network has been disconnected for this purpose, and the locomotive will be towed to Lod. It will take an estimated two hours to finish dealing with the locomotive and restore normal operations."
A pantograph is the part of the electric locomotive that connects it to the overhead high-tension wire supplying electricity to the railway. The electric locomotives are completely new; they were ordered specially from Canadian company Bombardier for the high-speed railway.
Due to the pressure to open the line before the Sukkot holiday in 2018, according to the timetable announced by Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz, the line was launched while electrification of the garage used to test the locomotives had not yet been completed. The garage's "electrical workshop" still uses temporary generators, and the tests of the locomotives, and especially the pantographs, are not conducted at high tension. A senior engineering source working on the line said, "The daily tests of the pantograph are not conducted under real high-tension conditions. This situation is unheard of anywhere else in the world. It is not the proper way to work."
Furthermore, since the electrical line is still not completely ready, Israel Railways is forced to bring a fleet of diesel locomotives every morning to drag the electric locomotives to the garage, because the track leading to the garage in Lod has not yet been electrified, and the electric locomotives cannot travel on it under their own power. This means that because of Israel Railways' current severe shortage of locomotives and carriages, some of the equipment is transferred to the high-speed line merely because the line was opened before the infrastructure work on it was completed.
"A call to Israelis to fast and pray for the railway, because this is probably the only thing that can help."
"Globes" reported three months ago that many of the malfunctions occurring in the high-speed line to Jerusalem were related to an irregular supply of electricity, because part of the electricity was supplied by temporary transformer stations, while the permanent stations were not yet ready. The pantograph stops operating when there are fluctuations in the supply of electricity, causing the locomotive's main switch to shut off until the fluctuations stop. Even worse, an irregular supply of electricity also damages the equipment itself.
The original opening date for the high-speed line, Israel Railways' current flagship project, was initially postponed from late 2017 until before the Passover holiday in 2018. At the last minute, Israel Railways announced a further six-month postponement due to safety requirements by Israel Police and the rescue services. As reported in "Globes," however, the engineering work done under supervision by Israel Railways was also far from completion.
The high-speed line to Jerusalem, the Ministry of Transport's largest project, cost an estimated NIS 7 billion. It is designed to connect Jerusalem to the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area and the central region, therefore relieving traffic congestion.
Knesset Economic Affairs chairperson Eitan Cabel (Labor) said in response to the shutdown of the railway line to Jerusalem, "Throughout my term as chairperson, I warned in discussions by the Economic Affairs Committee that although the project was enormously expensive and of national importance, it was being managed disgracefully and unsuccessfully. Responsibility for the failure belongs solely to the person who hurried to open the line, while knowing that it was unready for use - Yisrael Katz. I call on all Israelis to hold a day of fasting and prayer for the railway, because that is probably the only thing that will help."