Israel's longest railway tunnel was completed last week after 22 months of work.
The tunnel forms part of the Jerusalem Tel Aviv fast rail link and extends 11.6 kilometers in the Jerusalem hills between Mevasseret Zion and Nahal Yitlah. Work will soon start on a second parallel tunnel of the same length to take trains in the other direction.
The automated Tunnel Boring Machine,(TBM) is operated by an Italian company, Pizzarotti, on behalf of the Israeli construction contractor Shapir Engineering. Each TBM weighs about 1,800 tons, is about 100 meters long and 10 meters in diameter. It rides a specially fitted rail and advances at a rate of about 20 meters per day and operates 24 hours a day. Each TBM costs roughly NIS 100 million.
About 430 workers accompany the TBM's operation. These include around 200 subcontractors, 200 workers, 20 engineers and 10 measurers. The project will utilize 150,000 cubic meters of concrete and 12,000 tons of iron
The tunnels form a substantial part of the 57 kilometer rail link between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem via Ben Gurion airport.
A new station is under construction at the western entrance to Jerusalem. The entire project costs NIS 7 billion. When completed the trains will travel at an average of 160 kilometers per hour and journey time between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will be 28 minutes. At peak times there will be four trains per hour and the line will carry 4 million passengers annually.
The project includes 5 tunnels totaling 37 kilometers and 8 bridges totaling 6.5 kilometers.