Israel to seek Chinese funding for Eilat railway

25 January 2012 (Last Updated January 25th, 2012 18:30)

The Israeli Government is looking to seek funds from China for the construction of the Eilat passengers and cargo railway.

The Israeli Government is looking to seek funds from China for the construction of the Eilat passengers and cargo railway.

The proposal by Israel’s Minister of Transport includes special legislation to expedite the project’s planning procedures, including the best alternatives for building the railway. The proposal, to be submitted to the cabinet for approval, identifies three options for building the railway that involve a Chinese option of awarding the contract to China Communications Construction Company, a private franchisee, or the state.

Israel Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the Eilat rail project is of great national and strategic importance, serving as a rail link between the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and allowing the passage of goods between south-east Asia and western Europe.

The project’s preliminary cost estimate is 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.

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. 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.

The proposal recommends reducing the travel time on the future Tel Aviv-Eilat railway to two hours from the current two and a half hours, at a train speed of 230km/h along the Arava.

Awarding the construction deal to the Chinese government company will rule out the need for any tendering process and involve a government-to-government agreement. Israel’s Ministry of Transport will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with its Chinese counterpart if the cabinet approves the Chinese option, according to Globes.