Israel's Civil Administration in the occupied West Bank has approved plans to build a railway line in between Palestinian cities, ignoring popular and official local objections. With 30 stations, 11 branch lines and a total track length of over 473 km, the cost of the project, says Haaretz newspaper, is enormous; the plans alone cost almost $300,000 to prepare.
The railway is intended to connect Palestinian cities with those in Israel, Jordan and Syria. The mountainous terrain means that dozens of bridges and tunnels will need to be constructed.
Right-wing Transportation Minister Yesrael Katz is behind the project. He announced recently that he objects to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Alex Smith, the engineer appointed by the Israeli railway authorities, said that the railway is going to connect Jenin and Nablus with the outskirts of Jerusalem, Hebron and Beersheba. Another track, said Smith, will run the length of the Jordan Valley. All will be interconnected with the current Israeli rail network, even the Gaza Strip.
According to Smith, about 12,000 commuters are expected to use the tracks between Jerusalem and Ramallah in the morning, along with 3,000 between Hebron and Beersheba. The number of commuters is expected to exceed 30 million by 2035.
The railway track in the Jordan Valley will be used for tourism and transferring commuters from the Dead Sea to Eilat or Tiberius. The engineer did not comment on any possible military use of the railway network across and around the occupied Palestinian territories.