JERUSALEM, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- Israel officially inaugurated a fast train between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, seven months behind schedule.
The new electrified route, which costs two billion U.S. dollars, is expected to be fully operational in 2019, according to local media reports.
The Ministry of Transportation said in a statement that a partial operation of the new route will begin on Tuesday. Passengers could only travel from Jerusalem to the Ben Gurion Airport, outside Tel Aviv.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Israel Katz took a test ride in the new train.
Netanyahu hailed the event as a "historic moment," because connecting Jerusalem to the national train network heralds a "new era."
The route would be Israel's first electric railway. Once completed, it will travel at a speed of 160 kph, reducing the commute time from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to less than 30 minutes.
Currently, a railway built about 126 years ago in the Ottoman Empire era takes an hour and 40 minutes. A bus drive between the two cities is usually affected by heavy traffic and might take more than an hour.
The new rail was originally planned to be launched in 2008 and its inauguration has been repeatedly postponed.