Eilat 260 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ Nir Elias)
The Southern District Committee for Planning and Building approved on Monday the
final leg of the future Eilat railway, choosing an eastern corridor alternative
proposed by the Transportation Ministry.
Deciding on the missing piece of
the railway, which will travel at speeds between 220 and 260 kilometers per
hour, the committee reviewed three routes from Dimona to Hatzeva – the eastern
path of the Transportation Ministry and Israel National Roads Company, the
western route of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) and a third
The committee approved the eastern route due to its
engineering feasibility, low cost, minimal safety risks, low environmental
impact and an operational convenience that will allow for the use of many
trains, the Interior Ministry said.
The decision comes about two months
after the committee approved the two other sections of the train route – from
Beersheba to Dimona and from Hatzeva to Eilat.
“The project will bring a
blessing to the factories of the South, which account for a large and meaningful
component of Israeli exports,” Transportation Minister Israel Katz said, noting
that there would be significantly fewer large trucks on Road 90 once the train
With a rail link to connect the Red Sea to the
Mediterranean, the country will see a swifter passage of goods to both Europe
and Asia and a resultant strengthening of international relations, Katz said. In
addition, the rail will improve tourism to Eilat and significantly reduce air
pollution levels, he added.
“For the project, a social contribution is of
top priority for the 700,000 people living in southern Israel,” Katz
Work on the Eilat railway, which will involve six planning firms,
will include a 240- km. passenger route and a 260- km. freight route, the
Transportation Ministry said. In addition, the plans involve eight operational
stations, four cargo terminals and five new passenger stations – in Dimona,
Sapir, Ketura, Ramon and Eilat, Israel National Roads Company CEO Shai Baras
In addition to shifting the 60-km. section between Dimona and
Hatzeva southwest, the alternative proposed by the INPA called for digging
tunnels that researchers said would leave the surface of the desert nature
untouched. This option, the INPA stressed, would reduce the need for 50-
meter-high ramparts to elevate the train line, land bridges and flattening of
While the alternative supported by the INPA and the
Environmental Protection Ministry has several environmental benefits, it also
has many disadvantages, the Southern District Committee decided. The alternative
would reduce the operational capacity of the train by 30 percent so that fewer
trains would be able to travel, and would add huge financial costs and safety
risks posed by more than 13 km. of tunneling, according to the Interior
Ministry. Tunnels also face ventilation problems and risk obstruction, and
require escape hatches, the office said.