A fast train route between Tel Aviv and the southern city of Eilat was approved by the southern district regional planning committee on Monday, despite objections from various environmental groups. The plan must still be finalized and approved at the national level.

The 350-kilometer track will connect the center of Israel with the Red Sea resort city and port, with the train scheduled to move at some 250 kilometers per hour. The contractor will be chosen at a later date, the committee decided.

Over the past year a number of organizations petitioned against the planned train, saying it would heavily damage the wildlife and scenery throughout Israel’s Negev Desert.

Three different routes were presented to the committee, which decided in favor of the easternmost track, saying it was the option with the fewest problems. Running the train along the east part of the desert would provide passengers with a glorious view, the committee said, adding it was also the safest option, since it intersected the fewest roads and kept away from most populated areas.

Acknowledging that the chosen option wasn’t as environmentally friendly as a suggested western route, the committee said the disadvantages of the western route — especially the higher costs and level of risk — were too considerable to ignore.

The project was defined by the Transportation Ministry as one of national interest, and as such it must be approved by the national planning committee and the appropriate ministries.