The world’s smallest underground railway with just six stations inside a 1.1-mile tunnel

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun30,2024

This subway system, the oldest underground transit system in the Middle East, is the smallest in the world, having only four cars, six stations and a single tunnel stretching just over 1.1 miles. It was also the only underground transit system in the country until a new rail was opened last year.

The Carmelit, found in Haifa, Israel, first underwent construction in 1956 and ended in 1959. Until the opening of the Tel Aviv Light Rail in 2023, it was the only underground system in the country.

Named after Mount Carmel through which it runs, the difference in elevation between the first and last stations is 274 metres.

As such, the cars have a slanted design, with steps within each car and on the platforms.

The Carmelit is the smallest subway system in the world, with the four cars operating as two two-car trains which run on a single track with a short passing loop to allow them to pass each other.

From end-to-end, the ride lasts just eight minutes.

The technology used forces the network to have an even number of stations at approximately equal distances, meaning that some of the stations are not close to major centres but were needed for technical reasons.

The solution to connect Mount Carmel with downtown Haifa was first envisioned by British mandatory authorities, to serve the important population and business centre when it was designed. But practical talks did not begin until 1955 and the plan and loan, provided by a French company, was signed in 1956.

Solel Boneh, an Israeli company carried out the works, proceeding at a rate of three metres a day. Since its opening, Carmelit has closed down for repairs on three occasions, once for intensive renovation in 1986, in March 2015 due to a faulty cable which was fixed four months later and in February 2017 when a fire erupted in the Paris Square station. One of the two train sets was heavily damaged, as well as parts of the tunnel. It reopened in October 2018.

Today, as the vast majority of the population do not live near the stations, it is not used very frequently. According to the 2004 report written by Haifa’s comptroller, the system was only used by 2,000 passengers a day even then, and was losing money. The accrued losses between 1992 and 2003 were over £40.2 million.

That being said, when the Carmelit reopened in 2018, it experienced a surge in users, with 4,000 people taking it per day, the highest figure in 20 years.

Instead, the most widely used public transport system in the Haifa area of Egged buses, which serve most of the city. There have been talks to extend the network, but this has not been done mainly due to economic reasons.

A short walk from the uppermost station is the Bahá’í Gardens. Halfway up the gardens is the Bahá’í Temple, home of the Bahá’í faith which was founded in the 19th-century and is said to have five to eight million adherents.

The network operates from 6am to 10pm Sunday to Thursday and 6am to 3pm on Fridays and the day before holidays. The train is closed on Saturdays and holidays, according to Tourist Israel.

Fares for adults cost NIS 6.60 (£1.39), with a round-trip costing NIS 13.20 (£2.78). Children and seniors can travel for NIS 3.30 (69p), as of early 2012.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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