Rail plan will cut Saudi holy cities trip to two hours
The new high-speed Haramain railway project in Saudi Arabia will cut travel time between the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah to just two hours, a senior official has revealed.
Dr Jubara bin Eid Al-Suraisri, Minister of Transport, who is also the chairman of Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO), said express trains will travel at speeds of up to 330km per hour.
He added in comments published by state news agency SPA that the project, which will link Makkah to Madinah with the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, is expected to cost SR30bn.
Last month, the SRO awarded a 6.74bn euro ($9.4bn) contract for the second phase of the Haramain project to the public-private Saudi-Spanish Al-Shoula consortium.
The contract covers the construction of 450 kilometres of high-speed track, with the capacity to transport over 160,000 passengers a day.
The Al-Shoula consortium is made up of Spanish public rail companies including state railway operator Renfe and rail track company Adif, as well as private constructors OHL, ACS and Indra and Saudi companies Al Shoula y Al Rosan.
More than 33,000km of railway lines are planned to be built in the Middle East and North Africa with the region's mainline rail network set to almost double in size, a report said in May.
According to the Mena Rail Report 2011, metro, tram and monorail track lengths will also increase tenfold.
A review of rail projects across the Middle East, North Africa and the Levant showed there was more than $250bn of planned investment set out by governments and rail operators.
In August, it was announced that construction of an urban mass rail transit system for the holy city of Makkah is slated to start in 2013, with operations beginning four years later.
AlBalad AlAmeen Company (BAC) said it is working with an advisory team of Ernst & Young, Ashurst and Parsons Brinckerhoff to develop the procurement packages for the first stage of the system, including rail infrastructure, railway systems, rolling stock, depot and operations.
Makkah faces significant congestion and transportation challenges as a focal point of the Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage, which attracts millions of visitors to the city every year.
The Makkah Mass Rail Transit project (MMRT) is a key aspect of the Municipality's strategy to address these growth challenges and the current public transport deficit.