By Anav Silverman
Tazpit News Agency
Sderot’s first rocket-proof railway station was inaugurated on Tuesday, December 24. The periphery city, located about 2.5 kilometers (one mile) away from the Gaza Strip, will now have a direct access line to Tel Aviv. According to Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, the new train station is the first in Israel and perhaps the world to be built with appropriate protection against rocket fire, costing NIS 50 million ($14 million) in construction.
The train station, which took over a decade to build, is the southern point of the line that travels to Tel Aviv via Ashkelon, Ashdod, Yavne, Rishon Lezion, Bat Yam and Holon. Israel Railways is building the line further south into the Negev desert with new stations to be opened in Netivot in 2014 and in Ofakim in 2015, which will eventually connect to Be’er Sheva.
The inauguration ceremony in Sderot was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Sderot mayor, Alon Davidi, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, and various local mayors municipal officials.
“Today we mark a landmark in realizing the vision to connect all of Israel – from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat,” said the prime minister. He also stated that Sderot is now a “suburb of Tel Aviv.”
It will take Sderot residents less than an hour to get to Tel Aviv, with the train passing through Sderot every hour and twice during rush hour. For the next three months, residents of Sderot and other areas in the region will travel the train for free.
“Everything is accessible, everything is connected and it’s changing the face transportation on a practical level,” said the PM Netanyahu.
Katz cited the economic development that the railway line will bring the area, which “will lead to prosperity and development for the whole region.” A new shopping mall is already being built by the train station, located outside the entrance to the city.
Sderot, which for over a decade was the target of thousands of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, is undergoing a new period of hope and change. In a statement by Sderot mayor, Alon Davidi: “In the annals of Sderot, this will be remembered as the end of one era and the beginning of another, more promising one.”
The Sderot mayor cited that the new rail line is “the opening shot for the strengthening and expansion of the city,” which today has about 20,000 residents. Davidi says the line will encourage young families from the center of the country to move to Sderot for better housing prices and a higher quality of life.