The Southern District Committee for Planning and Building approved last Monday the final leg of the Eilat railway.
The committee chose the eastern corridor alternative which had been proposed by the Transportation Ministry.
The 240-kilometer Fast Track Eilat Rail Line project is part of a comprehensive push to revamp the country's transport infrastructure, and is due to begin operations five years from the start of construction. The decision to build apassenger and cargo railway to Eilat was made by the government two years ago, determining that the decision was a strategic one meant to turn Israel into a land bridge for the transport of goods to Europe and to improve access to Eilat.
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.
“The project will bring a blessingto 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 begins operating. He added that 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 ofinternational 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,”.
The Israeli government seeks to double the population of the Negev, a vast desert region largely uninhibited, to 1.2 million by 2025. Once in place, the railway will cut travel time from Eilat, at Israel's southernmost tip, to the country's center down to two hours. Eilat's hoteliers say that would dramatically raise tourism to their city, with visitors currently forced to drive near four hours or take a commuter flight.