A rail alternative to the Suez Canal could begin construction this year, as protests in the region raise concerns. Israeli officials have privately admitted they are planning for various scenarios, including Suez becoming compromised by ongoing protests in the area.
Egyptian President Morsi has warned the region risks a “collapse of the state” if protests cannot be brought under control. Forty people were killed last month alone in cities next to the waterway, with shipping companies forced to suspend work for several days.
The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, providing transportation between Europe and Asia, avoiding navigating around Asia, and is covered by an international treaty permitting travel “without distinction of flag”, meaning by any nation.
The proposed alternative rail link would see the construction of a port near the Israeli city of Eilat, with a double track railway linking to the port of Ashdod on the Mediterranean Sea. The rail track alone could cost in the region of $2 bn, with port enlargements costing still more. It is thought that Chinese and Indian Governments are interested in providing funding for the project.
Fees from Suez provide around $5 bn in foreign currency per annum, and are the only reliable source of foreign currency to Egypt.