'Eilat rail plans require extensive evaluations'

In order for the Eilat railway project to move forward properly, all relevant bodies must ensure that thorough economic, geostrategic and environmental assessments are occurring along the way, State Control Committee Chairman Amnon Cohen (Shas) stressed during a meeting on the subject Monday.
"For a huge project with such historic magnitude as a train to Eilat, we must evaluate all aspects in advance," Cohen said.
During the meeting, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that the project is estimated to cost only about NIS 24.5 billion, in contrast to the NIS 50b. figures discussed by opponents to the plan. Hebrew University Prof. Eran Feitelson, who has drafted extensive studies on the subject with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, argued that the project would in fact cost between NIS 30b.-50b., and slammed the plan for not defining clear objectives or examining projects in parallel.
While an Environmental Protection Ministry representative warned of "irreversible harm" to nature in the Arava Desert, Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi stressed that residents of the region are looking forward to the train, which could "make the desolate Arava blossom – without harming one flower along the way."
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