After a few weeks of not traveling, I resumed my regular activities this week: I traveled to Tel Aviv on Sunday and to Karmiel on Wednesday. A few unpleasant surprises awaited me.
Until now, trains from Bet Shemesh to Tel Aviv (and thence to Herzliya) left at one minute to the hour, i.e. 5:59, 6:59, etc. On Sunday, I arrived at the station at 8:50 in order to take the 8:59 train ... only to see the train pulling out as I arrived. It transpires that the trains now leave at ten minutes to the hour (5:50, 6:50, etc). Not only that, there is now an extra stop at Lod Ganei Aviv, which slows the journey by an extra 3 minutes. I also discovered that the train now continues from Herzliya to Netanya, which probably is of no use to people traveling from Bet Shemesh (or Jerusalem) but helps people traveling from Tel Aviv to Netanya. Coming back, the train has been delayed by six minutes, from 16:36 to 16:42; this is helpful as I can now leave our offices in Tel Aviv ten minutes later and still catch the train.
The other surprise is that there seem to be no more return tickets. I used to buy a return ticket to Bnei Barak for 36 NIS; now I need to buy two singles at 45 NIS. True, I could buy 12 tickets for the price of 10 which works out as 37.5 NIS per return journey, but it would take me quite some time to use all those tickets. More importantly, a return ticket to Karmiel used to cost 85 NIS, whereas now two singles will cost 106 NIS; I can buy 12 tickets for the price of ten, giving an effective price of 88.33 NIS, but this means having to pay 530 NIS in advance. Although my company reimburses me for all money which I spend on traveling, the changes means that I would be giving my company a loan of 530 NIS for at least two months. It seems that I will be traveling to Karmiel now only once every other week, so it will take me several months to use those 12 tickets.
So much for reducing ticket prices.
On Sunday, I didn't know in advance that I would be traveling to Tel Aviv (I only found out when I arrived at the office and read my email) which meant that I didn't have my headphones with me. Traveling to Tel Aviv wasn't too bad, but on the return journey, the train was full of football fans who talked non-stop; having no headphones meant that I had to listen to every empty and annoying word. It also occurs to me that there are going to be more passengers on train when it arrives at Tel Aviv University (on the way to Bet Shemesh) which means fewer empty seats. But I will still have an advantage on those who get on the train at the other Tel Aviv stations.