The first high-speed passenger railway line between the Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina will be completed by January 2014, the Saudi transport minister said in comments reported on Friday.
“The work on the Haramain High Speed Rail Project between Mecca and Medina is progressing on time and as planned,” minister Jabara Al-Seraisry, who is also chairman of the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO), said in comments published by the Saudi daily Arab News.
The transport official said the new Medina railway station would better serve Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.
The project includes building a railway station at Mecca and Medina and two stations in the port city Jeddah including the one at King Abdulaziz International Airport. Developers aim to construct a 480-kilometer railway line, made specifically for high-speed electric trains.
“The Haramain railway is expected to carry more than 3 million passengers annually.” Arab News reported.
More than 6 million visitors from across the world visit Mecca every year for the Hajj and Umra pilgrimages. The influx has strained the narrow roads and outdated transport system.
Last October, the SRO awarded a 6.74 billion euro ($9.4 billion) contract for the second phase of the Haramain project to the public-private Saudi-Spanish al-Shoula consortium.
Saudi Arabia currently has 1,200 kilometers of railway lines and when current rail projects are complete, the total will be closer to 7,000 kilometers, Arab News said.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia approved a 62 billion riyal ($16.5 billion) plan to modernize the transport system in its holy city of Mecca, including building a bus network and metro system, the state news agency SPA said.
Four metro lines of a total length of 182 km (114 miles) will be built across the city, with 88 stations, SPA reported.
Construction for the transport project will be carried out over about 10 years, the report said, without giving details of when it would start or how companies would bid for contracts.