An Israeli ministerial committee approved last Sunday an outline of a train route from Tel Aviv, the country's largest city on the Mediterranean coast, to the southern resort city of Eilat on the Red Sea.
The new track, spanning over a distance of nearly 400 km, will include 63 bridges and five tunnels.
The train would use to transport passengers as well as cargo, and will take two hours per ride at a speed of 250 kilometers per hour.
This is Israel's biggest and most expensive transportation- related project, costing approximately 30 billion shekels (US$8.6 billion). The project is set to be completed by the end of 2020.
The train will provide rapid access to Eilat from the center of the country, reducing travel time from four or five hours by car or bus to two hours by train, and will make it easier to commute between the center of the country and the Negev.
An estimated 5 million passengers a year are expected to ride the train once it goes into operation. Green organizations protested against the plan, saying it will damage several territories' fauna and flora, demanding the construction of more tunnels in several spots on the route, which would add approximately five billion shekels (US$1.4 billion) to the project's costs.
The Transportation Ministry noted in a press release that the rail link was not meant to compete with Egypt’s Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, allowing for the transfer of goods by ship between Europe and Asia.