Israrail train Bombardier 311.
(photo credit: Bombardier)
The cabinet on Sunday approved construction of a Red-Med train link between
Eilat and Tel Aviv to dramatically reduce travel time between the cities and
create an Asian-European cargo link as a possible alternative to the Suez
The cabinet unanimously approved construction of the 350-kilometer
line, which according to a 2007 government evaluation, will cost NIS. 8.6
billion to build. It will include two tracks – one for passenger trains and the
other for freight – and is expected to begin operation five years from the start
According to Sunday’s decision, a team chaired by PMO
Director-General Harel Locker will consider three options to finance the
project: An “inter-governmental agreement with another government with which
there are economic and strategic interests”; public funding; or construction
through a private franchisee, as was done for the construction of Road
Last year following a September trip to China, Transportation Minister
Yisrael Katz said the Chinese expressed interest in the project.
weeks ago Katz issued a statement saying the Chinese option was the preferred
one, and that over the years government corporations have been established in
China that have proven to be efficient.
“Experience shows that the
professional ability of Chinese companies in building railway tracks and
transportation networks is among the best in the world,” he said.
said Israel and China, which last month celebrated 20 years of diplomatic ties,
share common economic and national interests.
In an apparent reference to
China and India, Netanyahu said that in the “coming decade new powers will arise
[with whom] Israel must create vital interests from a national strategy
Netanyahu has said that both China and India have
expressed a great deal of interest in the project, and that the rail link has
“strategic, national and international importance.”
Meanwhile, the prime
minister said Sunday that Israel has an interest in creating an alternative
route between Asia and Europe to the Suez Canal, and that this could serve as an
“insurance policy” in the event that the canal is closed, or could not deal with
the increasing volume of traffic. Such a link could serve as a means of
transporting goods to Europe, without having to go through the Suez Canal, since
cargo unloaded in Eilat would then be sent by rail to Israeli ports, and from
there to Europe.
“Israel must become a continental landcrossing route and
create great power interest,” he said.
In addition to the strategic
aspects of this rail link, Netanyahu said it would shorten travel time from
Eilat to Tel Aviv to two hours, “and will change the face of the
“For 63 years, there has been talk about linking the periphery
to the center, but nothing has been done,” he said.
Currently, the drive
from Tel Aviv to Eilat takes about five hours.
Constructing the new rail
link sill necessitate upgrading existing tracks, and laying new ones. The
Red-Med railway, according to a Transportation Ministry communiqué, will include
63 bridges, which will span a total of some 4.5 kilometers, and a total of 9.5
kilometers of tunnels.