Eilat Railway

SPNI is working to preserve the Negev's unique landscapes.

Israel's government has decided to construct a railway linking Eilat and Tel Aviv. If the railway is completed, it will cut through six nature reserves, destroy one of a kind habitats and scar the Negev forever. 

SPNI promotes developing sustainable public transportation. Our analysis reveals that the railway will fail to meet any of the government's goals while leaving future generations to pay the exorbitant financial and environmental price.

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SPNI has produced a comprehensive report, in cooperation with Hebrew University’s Shasha Center for Strategic Research, written with the assistance of several independent and world-class experts. The report has raised more questions than the government has answers.

The report was presented to government panels representing the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry for Environmental Protection. The Ministry of Transportation was conspicuously absent.

Report Summary:

Goal: The Eilat Railway will create an alternative cargo route between the Far East and Europe by connecting Israel’s Eilat and Mediterranean Ports.

Analysis: The railway would be unable to compete with the Suez Canal. It currently costs $30 and takes 35 days to ship one container via the Suez Canal. Experts estimate it will cost $800 and take 56 days to go via the railway. (Note: Current plans only cover the route from Eilat to Tel Aviv and do not include how the main line will actually connect to the ports either in Eilat or Ashdod.)

Goal: The Eilat Railway will be an alternative shipping route if the Suez Canal is closed.

Analysis: It will be cheaper and faster for boats to navigate around South Africa than to use the Eilat Railway. Additionally, competition with Egypt may threaten relations.

 Goal: The railway is to be built by a Chinese company and will improve Israel’s relations with China.

Analysis: Giving China this foothold in Israel may cause relations with the US to deteriorate. (Furthermore, Ephraim Halevy, Mossad Director from 1998-2002 has stated publicly that it is a major security risk to engage the Chinese in such a large, national project.)

 Goal: The railway will boost Eilat’s Tourism.

Analysis:  The only way to really boost Eilat’s tourism is by upgrading hotels and tourist facilities. The train alone will not do anything. In fact, the port expansion (needed to handle the increased shipping) would damage the coral reef, one of Eilat’s biggest tourist attractions.

Goal: The journey from Tel Aviv to Eilat will take less than two hours.

Analysis:  A cursory look at current plans show that the journey time will be 2 hours, 27 minutes.

 Goal: Taking the train would be cheaper than driving.

Analysis:  This is only true for single passengers, factoring in group size (eg. a family vacation) driving by car will be cheaper.

Goal: The Eilat Railway will lead to reduced traffic accidents on Route 90 (the main highway to Eilat).

Analysis:  Traffic accidents on Route 90 may well be reduced, but only as a result of planned improvement works.

 Goal: The Eilat Railway will break even.

Analysis:  To break even the Eilat Railway will have to carry 5.2 million passengers a year until 2030. (Context: 10 million passengers annually use the Eurostar linking London to Paris and Brussels.)

SPNI is working through all channels to save the Negev.

Employing our expertise in planning, we are advising government committees and councils.

Demanding transparency: SPNI is pressuring the Ministry of Transportation to release all information about the railway’s impact that is public record but has not been published. 

In Committee: SPNI is advising the Committee for Parks and Nature Reserves which will make recommendations to the Minister for Environmental Protection. Amir Peretz Minister for Environmental Protection is on our side and has called the project "megalomania," but many officials still need convincing.

What's next? In the coming months, the Southern Planning Council will release the railway’s plan to the public for objections. SPNI is preparing objections for this public forum.

Join us! Without your support the Negev's landscapes may be lost forever.

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