Cabinet begins talks on Tel Aviv-Eilat rail

Netanyahu says the railway would make it possible to travel from TA to Eilat in 2 hours, facilitate transporting goods to Europe.

Israrail train Bombardier 311 (photo credit: Bombardier)
Israrail train Bombardier 311
(photo credit: Bombardier)
The cabinet held a preliminary discussion Sunday on building a train track from Eilat to Tel Aviv that could, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, serve as a cargo link between Asia and Europe.
The project, which in a 2007 government evaluation was priced at NIS 8.6 billion, would include two tracks – one for passenger trains and the other for cargo trains.
Netanyahu said the railway would make it possible to travel from Tel Aviv to Eilat in two hours, down considerably from the five to six hours it takes to drive there by car or bus today. But beyond making the country’s periphery more accessible to the rest of the country, Netanyahu said there was also a great deal of interest in the project from China and India.
Such a link could serve as a means of transporting goods to Europe without having to go through the Suez Canal. Cargo unloaded in Eilat would then be sent by rail to Israeli ports and from there to Europe.
“There is strategic, national and international importance to building this railway line,” Netanyahu said. Constructing the new rail link would necessitate both upgrading existing tracks and laying new ones.
Netanyahu said the construction of this railway was part of a greater vision to link the extremities of the country together by highways and rail lines so it would be possible to travel from one end of the country to the other without seeing a traffic light. He has said in the past that this vision was based on the US interstate highway system.
“This will impact Israel for the next 50 years in a dramatic fashion,” Netanyahu said. He said that while he was opening the discussion on the project in the cabinet on Sunday, additional meetings would be needed to finalize a decision.
“This will necessitate dealing with budgetary issues,” he said. “We will deal with that, and get this done.”
Last month Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the Chinese had expressed an interest in the project. A joint venture with a foreign government is one of the options for funding that are being considered.
Other options include public funding or construction through a private franchise, as was done for the construction of Road 6.