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October 7, 2013 3:44 pm

Israel Approves High-Speed Train Route to Eilat

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North Beach in Eilat. Photo: wiki commons. An Israeli government committee has approved plans for Israel’s most expensive transportation project ever, a high-speed rail line from central Israel to southern port city of Eilat on the Red Sea.

The 217-mile track to Eilat will run along the eastern flank of the Negev, allowing it to avoid rocket fire from Gaza or the Sinai. The train is expected to reach speeds up to 155 miles per hour, which will cut travel down to two hours from the four-to-five-hour trip by car or bus. An estimated 5 million passengers a year are expected to ride the train, Haaretz reported.

The rail line may also eventually act as a “land bridge” for cargo between Europe and Asia, which may require expansion of Eilat’s port. But environmentalists are concerned that the rail line may “destroy nature in the Negev and damage the Gulf of Eilat,” according to a joint statement by Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

While a contractor has not been chosen yet, there are tentative plans for a Chinese company to handle the construction, which will cost up to NIS 7 billion, or $2 billion.

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