yisrael katz 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Collaboration with China is the Israeli government’s preferred solution for
building the high-speed railway to Eilat.
Wednesday night, Transport
Minister Israel Katz sent to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the proposal,
which will probably be submitted to the cabinet for approval on
The proposal includes special legislation to expedite the
project’s complex planning procedures in the same way that was done for Road 6
(the Yitzhak Rabin Highway toll road).
The proposal calls for a team
headed by Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Harel Locker to recommend,
within 90 days, the best alternative for building the railway.
options are the Chinese option, a private franchisee, or the state
The Finance Ministry will probably object to financing the
project from the budget. The project’s preliminary cost estimate is NIS 7
billion, just for laying the rail, and could go as high as NIS 30b., including
rolling stock, double tracking the line, electrification, and peripheral
The option of a private franchise under a BOT (build, operate,
transfer) project, as was done for Road 6, would probably be found to be
The Chinese option is based on a
government-to-government agreement, with construction going to a Chinese
government company. The Transportation Ministry believes that such an agreement
will render the need for a tender unnecessary.
Netanyahu has called to
shorten travel time on the future railway between Tel Aviv and Eilat to two
hours from two- and-a-half hours, and said that the railway was of great
strategic importance to the country.
Katz recently visited China as a
guest of China’s Transport Minister, and was impressed by the ministry’s
contracting arm China Communications Construction Company Ltd.
that Katz has already prepared a memorandum of understanding for
its Chinese counterpart, if the cabinet approves the Chinese option.
Transport Ministry team has toured the planned route of the Eilat railway. It is
assumed that without special legislation, the planning and licensing procedures
for the line could take years.
The 240-kilometer line from Dimona will
include a long tunnel from the Negev plateau to the Arava Valley. To meet
Netanyahu’s travel time, the train will have to travel 230 km/h along the
Shaul Bitterman, who represents Chinese government companies in
Israel, told Globes that a delegation from China’s Ministry of Transport is due
to visit Israel in February to study the project’s details.