The cabinet today approved the trans-Israel rail link, which is a recycled version of Israel Railways strategic plan, although no major budget is being allocated at this stage.
The plan includes high-speed trains of up to 250 kilometers per hour on new lines to Eilat and Kiryat Shmona. The plan is a climb down by Minister of Transport Miri Regev and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who had hoped to build a "bullet train" that does not appear in any planning for Israel's rail network. Trains of up to speeds of 250 kilometers an hour are not bullet trains.
The plan approved today also includes the fifth and sixth tracks alongside the Ayalon highway as well as doubling the coastal railway and electrification of the railway to Haifa, including the rail tunnel beneath the city, the Menashe railway linking the eastern railway to the Afula line, the freight line bypassing Lod, and a railway connection between Jerusalem and Beersheva.
The decision includes a directive to the Ministry of Transport to examine a mass transit systems in the area of Menashe Railway, connecting to Tiberias, and connections between Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem and between Elad and Rosh Ha'ayin, in accordance with the budget agreement signed between the Ministries of Finance and Transport and the Likud's coalition agreements with United Torah Judaism.
The cabinet decision includes an allocation of NIS 200 million for planning of tracks, while a joint team Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport team will be set up to examine an additional allocation of NIS 2.4 billion from Ministry of Transport budgetary sources. Last week "Globes" reported that the plan has been canceled to extend the Tel Aviv - Jerusalem fast rail link underground through Jerusalem to the Kotel, and increase the frequency of trains on the line.
"Enormous environmental damage"
In addition, another team will be formed to discuss future funding sources for the plan. The cabinet decision will also make it possible to continue promoting the Greater Tel Aviv metro project that Transport Minister Miri Regev has insisted should not be implemented unless railway lines to Eilat and Kiryat Shmona are promoted. The cabinet decision will not guarantee, despite the statements, the construction of the tracks to Eilat and Kiryat Shmona.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) strongly opposes the construction of the railway to Eilat. SPNI says that "a study conducted by top experts for the Shasha Center for Strategic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and SPNI, all the geostrategic, transport, logistical, environmental and economic goals of the (Eilat) railway will not be achieved."
On the other hand, SPNI claims, "The project may lead to enormous environmental damage, both in the the Negev and Arava regions, as well as in the Gulf of Eilat, as a result of maritime traffic and the need to establish an inland port."
SPNI Dan Alon wrote to cabinet ministers, "In our opinion, the time has come to stop the promotion of this highly damaging project, which does not at all serve the goals they set for it, and focus on providing other transport solutions for Eilat and the Arava."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 30, 2023.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.