Egypt rules out negative impact on Suez Canal from Israeli railway project

Abdel Tawab Haggag, economic advisor to the Suez Canal Authority, on Tuesday ruled out any negative effects on the canal from the railway line that Israel plans to build in order to link Asia to Europe.

“The line is meant for Israel’s internal transport, linking the Israeli ports,” Haggag said. “It is practically impossible that the railway could compete with the canal in transferring containers between the East and the West."

“Rail transportation costs three times more than maritime,” he explained. “This means US$50 more per container.”

“A train takes 75 containers, while a ship takes 7500,” he said, adding that Egypt should still respond to this project by developing its ports.

Late January, Israel said it planned to build a railway line linking its Red Sea and Mediterranean ports. The link would handle potential overflow from the Suez Canal on the freight route between Asia and Europe.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet the idea of ships dropping off goods in one port to be picked up by a second ship at the other had stirred "great interest" from major exporters India and China.

The project has yet to receive final approval or secure funding. Israel has not issued any cargo volume projections for the proposed electrified railway that would run 350 km from Eilat, on the Red Sea, to Ashdod, on the Mediterranean some 30 km south of Tel Aviv.

Israeli officials rebuffed any suggestion that the railway plan came in response to political turmoil in Egypt and the rise of Islamist parties, though Israel has quietly been preparing for the possible erosion of its landmark peace accord with the neighboring Arab power.

Until Tuesday, Egypt said it would be premature to comment on the planned rail link, given the project's preliminary nature.

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