The Red-Med Railway: some challenges  

Author: Dr. Salem Y. Lakhal

The construction of a railway line from the Port of Eilat to the national railway network, linking it to the Mediterranean ports of Ashdod and Haifa (Figure 1) has been approved and the contract signed with china its project partner. In the words of the Prime Minister, Mr Netanyahu: “In the coming decade, new powers will arise and the State of Israel must create vital interests from a national strategy point-of-view. We have the ability to create an alternative transportation route that bypasses the Suez Canal – this is an insurance policy. Israel must become a continental land crossing route and create great power interests.” (Levitt 2014; Anonymous 2012).

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Figure 1: The Red-Med Railway

There is no doubt that this freight land transport line is an alternative to the Suez Canal, « This is a strategic move », Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu stated (Levitt 2014). The project will be a bridge connecting Asia and Europe Israel wishes to involve Jordan in the project: indeed, Jordan’s port of Aqaba (Figure 2 and 3) (near the Israeli port of Eilat) seems suitable for the sorting out of containers travelling to the Israeli ports of Ashdod and Haifa. The Aqaba Port consists of:  main Terminal, containers Terminal and Industrial Terminal. In 2004 the management of the port is handed over to Aqapa Danish Management (ADMT) with the objectives to: Transfer Aqaba port to the global; standards; Increase the port productivity and to Drive Aqaba port to be an international hub (Styles 2013).

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Figure 2: The Jordanian Aqaba port

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Figure 3: General view of Aqaba Port. Credit: http://aqabaports.com.jo/

Some comments needs to be addressed after studying the information available on the project: (1) the duration of the project (5 years) could be considered fantasist compared to a much shorter link to construct a new line connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is taking twice as long by comparison. (2) Decision makers concerning the project seem to be out of touch with reality as far as regards the size of vessels on the Asia-Europe loops, all too large to enter the Port of Eilat. Why the Israeli Government is considering commissioning a study into the feasibility of an inland port north of Eilat, big enough to accommodate the largest vessels. Is someone smoking something, one might ask. (3) Even if one ignores the fact that the ships are too large to come to Eilat, how do the authorities imagine handling in excess of 8,000 teu and more per vessel? Does the cost of discharge in Eilat, transportation to Ashdod and loading to vessels is going to be cost effective? (4) To find the best economics alternative to bypass Suez Canal, we should consider the fundamental principles of the container shipping industry and compare all the alternatives offered to the maritime cargo operators: (i) the Suez Canal, (ii) the Red-Med land bridge and (iii) the route via the cap of Good Hop (Figure 4).

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Figure 4: The route around the Cap Hope is an alternative of Suez Canal and the Red-Med Railway Project

References

Anonymous. 2012. Red-Med railway pipe dream In PortSrategy: insight for senior port executives, March 07, 2012.

Levitt, J. 2014. Israel-China Alliance Moves Forward With $2 Billion ‘Red-Med’ Freight Rail Link Alternative to Suez Canal. In Algemeiner, March 24, 2014. Brooklyn, NY.

Styles, L. 2013. Jordan Port of Aqaba: Logistics Capacity Assessment.

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