Thousands of Soldiers to Get 'Late Passes' Sunday

Soldiers, used to riding the trains for free, will now be taking buses Sunday morning - and the army is expecting many to come in late.

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David Lev,

Soldiers commuting
Soldiers commuting

Thousands of soldiers who commute to their army posts are likely to be late Sunday, as Israel Railways amends a long-standing program that allowed soldiers to ride the trains for free. The trains will remain free for soldiers in uniform all week – except for between 6 AM and 9 AM Sundays, the hours when Israel Railways registers its highest ridership.

Instead of trains, soldiers will be able to take buses for free during those hours. But buses, which share the roads with hundreds of thousands of other vehicles all making use of Israeli highways, tend to get stuck in traffic, despite the existence of bus lanes on many roads. The buses will largely follow the routes of trains, letting soldiers out at or near the bases usually served by the rails. In order to avoid traffic, buses will take Route 6 north or south when possible, but large parts of Route 6 are currently under construction – with the roadway be widened to three lanes – and traffic has been slow during rush hours on that highway, drivers say.

As a result, the IDF has resigned itself to expecting late arrivals Sunday of many of the army's non-essential personnel who commute to their jobs – as well as soldiers coming back to base from a weekend home. Israel Railways says that the change cannot be helped, as the trains are already overcrowded during those hours (with “paying customers,” of course). In order to make things easier on the soldiers, Israel Railways will supply soldiers riding on the buses with a “light breakfast,” a spokesperson for the company said.