Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a comprehensive NIS 100 billion ($27 billion) plan to build a national railway that will begin as far north as Kiryat Shmona and reach as far south as the resort town of Eilat.
Netanyahu was joined by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Transportation Minister Miri Regev and Deputy Minister Uri Maklev in making the announcement.
When completed, the rail line, which will span about 400 kilometers (250 miles), could also facilitate transportation of goods between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Netanyahu called the project “a vital step in building the advanced, prosperous and strong country that we want.”
The project will enable the development of essential infrastructure in the Negev, allowing principal government centers – such as a complex of IDF bases – to transfer to the vast territory available in southern Israel. We will bring the infrastructure down to the Negev.
“This will help industry, the private sector. But without infrastructure, nothing can be done. It is a huge vision, but one that is empty,” he said. The vision of building in the Negev cannot be realized, Netanyahu noted, “except with very rapid transportation; transportation networks that will allow us to move people.”
At first, people will live in the Negev but work in central Israel, he acknowledged, but said that afterwards, “the center will come to them.”
Netanyahu also warned that the budget for the project might grow beyond the initial NIS 100 billion but said the expense would be spread over a period of years and that the end result will be well worth the investment.
“Believe it,” he declared. “Today we are bringing ‘One Israel,’ linked by fast trains, from Dan to Eilat. This is a festive day for Israel.”