A ministerial committee has given its approval to the planned route of a train from Tel Aviv to Eilat. The new train line is expected to revolutionize travel between Israel’s southernmost city and the center of the country with a travel time of just two hours.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the line should be complete within five years of its authorization. It will constitute a significant step toward the government’s goal of connecting Israel’s “periphery” – the north and south of the country – with the more heavily populated central regions.
Five ministers voted for the plan, while one – Environmental Protect Minister Amir Peretz – voted against. Environmental protection activists have warned that the planned route will run through wildlife reservations and hiking trails.
The approved route was chosen after consultation regarding its expected environmental impact. Planners hope to mitigate the train’s environmental effects to some extent using tunnels and bridges.
The new track will span 260 kilometers (161.5 miles) between Be’er Sheva and Eilat. Trains will be able to travel at speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour (155 mph) during the journey.
Some of the construction will involve improving old stretches of track, while in other places new lines will need to be added.
Katz noted that the new track would be used for cargo as well as passenger trains, and could help to speed the delivery of goods between southeast Asia and western Europe.