Not only is Eilat Israel’s southernmost city, it’s also Israel’s southernmost port. But it’s never been connected to the country’s railway network, despite Israel’s many pledges over the years to do just that. In fact, Eilat still sits roughly 200 km. south of the end of track, which is near the desert city of Dimona.
But Eilat may soon find itself joined by rail to the rest of Israel. China is mulling over the construction of a high-speed railway link between Eilat and the Israeli port of Ashdod south of Tel Aviv. Indeed, trains on the 350-km line would zip along at 250-300 km an hour. The line, which would also handle freight trains, would be built in large part to steal business away from the Suez Canal.
But the project won’t be without its challenges. Not only would the line require 63 bridges and five tunnels, but construction, now pegged at roughly US$6.5 billion, could end up double that amount, says Dr. Mordechai Chaziza, a senior lecturer at Israel’s Ashkelon Academic College, who specializes in Chinese foreign and strategic relations.
Still, the project does fire the imagination, if only because of its promise of finally linking Eilat to the rest of the country by means of steel wheels running on steel rails.