Over 6,000 soldiers took 243 special bus lines to their bases Sunday morning, as Israel Railways and the IDF cooperated on a new arrangement intended to alleviate passenger overload on trains in the busiest hours of the week.
The IDF and Israel Railways said that the arrangement's first day of operation was a success.
Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh and officers from the Technology and Logistics Branch accompanied the soldiers on the buses to experience the new arrangement at first hand.
Ahead of the initial implementation of the bus arrangement, Israel Railways announced that soldiers would no longer be allowed to ride the trains for free on Sunday morning between 6:00 and 9:00 a.m. The fact that most soldiers' leaves are timed for Sabbath, together with the fact that uniformed soldiers are allowed to ride the train for free, has meant that Sunday morning trains are extremely overloaded, Israel Railways explained. About 18,500 soldiers ride the trains during the week's three most problematic hours.
Besides harming service to civilian passengers, the soldiers, too, have to sit in overcrowded train cars, where they squeeze into the aisles for lack of seating space.
All in all, the IDF website reported, 303 buses were made available to the soldiers, "so that no soldiers had to wait for buses at the various stations." HaHagana station in Tel Aviv recorded the largest number of soldiers who used the new bus lines, followed by the Nahariya and Hof HaKarmel stations. Other soldiers took regular bus lines.
The average ride on the special buses took 25 minutes longer than it did by train, but all in all, the IDF said, time was saved because the buses took the soldiers all the way to their bases.
Israel Railways said that the average occupancy in the train cars Sunday morning was 130 percent, as opposed to 200 percent on previous Sundays. The trains were 84 percent accurate in sticking to schedule, as opposed to about 60 percent accuracy before the new experiment.