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Rail Stories

Solving Israel’s tough traffic challenge

The backstory on how our sustainable mobility solutions are helping Israel realize its rail electrification ambitions while solving their difficult road traffic situation.

Israel's decision to grow their intercity rail mobility is a response to having some of the worst automobile traffic in the developed world.

With a growing population and increasing urbanization, Israel’s larger cities are facing a challenge well known to booming megacities across the globe: increasing road congestion and massive traffic jams that stifle urban life. According to a 2015 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report, Israel actually has some of the worst road congestion in the developed world.

Approximately 92 per cent of Israel's nine million people live in cities and its population growth rate is over triple the average for developed nations.

Government officials agreed that the solution lay in extensive public transport and infrastructure reforms. But, national operator Israel State Railways (ISR) faced an uphill battle before they even began; nearly all of Israel’s commuter or intercity rail lines were configured for diesel trains. Aside from being noisier, more expensive and more polluting than electric trains, ISR’s reliance on diesel locomotives was beginning to cause problems. For example, the key line connecting the capital of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could not be used at all because a tunnel on the line lacked sufficient ventilation to safely support diesel locomotive service. That's why in 2009 the Israeli government launched an ambitious, long term plan to overhaul the nation's public transport by expanding their intercity mobility and converting to more ecofriendly electric power. 


Israel’s ambitious rail electrification project becomes reality

Designed for speeds up to 160 km/h, the new TRAXX AC locomotives will be mainly used to power Israel’s fleet of 470 TWINDEXX Vario double deck coaches.

To find a way forward, ISR turned to their trusted partner Bombardier Transportation for a complete solution that answered their needs along the entire mobility value chain: sustainable vehicles, an improved passenger experience and low lifecycle costs. It started in 2015, when we inked a deal with ISR for 62 electric BOMBARDIER TRAXX locomotives equipped with BOMBARDIER MITRAC TC 3000 AC traction converters. Highly efficient, these new electric locomotives serve as the force pulling Israel’s rail modernization program forward.


In 2010, the Israeli government announced a $4.5 billion plan to modernize its rail network by electrifying 420km of rail lines, acquiring new rolling stock and upgrading infrastructure.

Moving beyond innovative, eco-friendly vehicles

But key to Bombardier’s leading status in the rail industry is not simply cutting-edge vehicles, its also cemented by our ability to understand the full scope of clients’ needs. We understood that for ISR’s electrification aspiration to truly succeed, Israel needed more than eco-friendly locomotives, they needed a completely new passenger experience that offered commuters a practical and attractive alternative to cars. Our answer came in the form of the TWINDEXX Vario double-deck coach.

By increasing capacity with an 8-car trainset, 1,065 passengers could now travel safely and comfortably with dedicated spaces for those with reduced mobility. Reliable service, based on expert engineering and a deep understanding of local needs, high adaptability, and low operating and maintenance costs, all worked together to offer a safe and comfortable ride in Israel’s heat and help keep service reliable and fares affordable. 

Sustainability is important, but the second pillar of Israel Railway's strategy was to offer a modern, clean and comfortable travel experience that would alleviate traffic headaches by enticing commuters to leave their cars behind.

Fast facts: Israel Railways

69 stations

69 million passengers*

10 lines


62 TRAXX AC locomotives

293 double-deck coaches

1,384 kilometres of track

Strong services offering for reliable operation

As a full solution provider, Bombardier Transportation operates a service depot in Haifa where the existing 293 double-deck coaches are being upgraded for a speed of 160 km/h and for electric traction.

With sustainability and passenger experience improved, the final step in modernizing Israel's rail network was ensuring reliable, cost-efficient performance. As a full solution provider, Bombardier services teams take the lead in providing the technical support required to keep ISR's new fleet on track. From final assembly to maintenance, blended teams of both Bombardier and local technicians work closely to deliver the high engineering quality standards that Bombardier Transportation is known and trusted for. Their work includes carrying out upgrades and the necessary adjustments to ensure close compatibility between network and vehicles as well as low lifecycle costs for the fleet. 

This winning combination of high-capacity TWINDEXX vario wagons and the flexible, efficient and eco-friendly TRAXX AC locomotives began testing in November 2019. After 6 weeks of testing on the NAVON to Tel Aviv Ha'hagana line, Israel’s final section on their first fully-electrified line officially entered service on 2018, competing the journey between Israel’s two largest cities in just under 30 minutes.

As of 2019, the trains and auxiliary systems run on electricity, making it an entirely clean-energy commuter-regional rail network.