Israel has approved the construction of a 350km high-speed Tel Aviv-Eilat railway line, which will offer a new Asian-European trade route to compete with the Suez Canal.
According to preliminary estimates, the project is will cost NIS7bn ($1.8bn) for laying the rail and could reach about NIS30bn ($7.9bn) if the cost of rolling stock, double-tracking the line, electrification and peripheral equipment is taken into account.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country has the ability to create an alternative transportation route that bypasses the Suez Canal and which he sees as an insurance policy.
"The Tel Aviv-Eilat railway line, which will shorten travel time to two hours, will change the face of the country. The railway line and Israel’s natural gas resources can forge strong links in the economic, energy and industrial fields," Netanyahu added.
The Eilat rail project involves construction of a 240km rail line from Dimona to Eilat and will include 63 bridges and five tunnels, including a long tunnel from the Negev plateau to the Arava valley.
It will have two tracks, one for passenger trains and the other for freight, and construction on the project is expected to be completed in five years after commencement. The rail line will connect to the existing line that runs from Beersheba to Dimona and will include eight new stations along the route, including a station at the future airport in Timna.
When completed, the electrified rail line will allow trains to run at a speed of 300km/hr, completing the distance in 2.5hr.
The Israeli Government is considering three options to build the rail line that include a Chinese option of awarding the contract to China Communications Construction, which is considered the most preferred option, public funding, or through a private franchisee.