Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces an NIS 100 billion plan to link the northern city of Kiryat Shmona to the Red Sea resort of Eilat in the far south by rail, at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.
“My vision is for every Israeli citizen to be able to travel to or from the center from anywhere in the country in less than two hours,” he says. “In most cases under an hour, and even less than that.”
Aside from swiftly moving people the approximately 400-kilometer (250-mile) distance, the line will allow the moving of goods from the Eilat port to terminals on the Mediterranean, the premier says.
“And it will be able to link Israel to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula, we’re working on that too,” Netanyahu crows, reviving Hejazi-line dreams.
It’s unclear where the financing for the project will come from. According to the Ynet news site, the Transportation Ministry has agreed to fund NIS 200 million over the next two years for planning the line, which is reportedly expected to include a bullet-train segment through the Negev desert.
The cabinet is widely expected to approve the project nonetheless.
The announcement comes almost exactly a decade after a Netanyahu-led cabinet approved a train line linking the center of the country to Eilat, which had been the latest in a series of such decisions that had all gotten derailed once it became time to actually build the thing.
At the time, the vaguely Chinese-funded project was pilloried as costly and environmentally harmful. It also failed to actually link the Eilat port with the one in Ashdod.