Saudi Arabia plans 19,000 buses for 1.4m hajj pilgrims

The new buses are well equipped, air conditioned and have toilets.

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As many as 18 companies are getting ready to transport a total of 1.39 million pilgrims expected from abroad for this year's hajj.

The companies will be using 19,000 buses, including 452 brand new vehicles that cost more than SR200 ($53) million.

The new buses are well equipped, air conditioned and have toilets.

Hajj Minister Bandar Hajjar, who was given these figures during a visit he made to the office of the General Syndicate of Cars in Makkah on Sunday, launched the organization’s wireless operations unit that covers all roads leading to Makkah, the Holy Sites, Madinah and Jeddah to monitor traffic and report any faults or traffic jams or accidents.

He also launched the syndicate's new website through which hajj missions can follow the movements of their pilgrims.

Marwan Zubaidi, secretary-general of the syndicate, said the transport companies asked the minister to increase bus ticket prices in view of rising maintenance costs.

He said the minister assured them that a study on the issue was prepared by the ministry and forwarded to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for approval.

Zubaidi said the companies also asked the minister not to rent buses from abroad this year given the abundance of vehicles the government has provided for the transport of pilgrims.

Talking to journalists at the end of his visit, the minister described the just concluded Umrah season as successful and said all 6 million pilgrims who came from outside have left, except for 13,000 who are currently making their departure arrangements.

The Umrah season started late November and concluded late August.

Hajjar said his ministry is closely following all developments concerning the spread of the Ebola virus and is liaising with the ministries of health and foreign affairs. Pilgrims from the three West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which have been affected by the disease, were banned from performing hajj this year.

Hajjar said: “Your pilgrimage will be safe. We are doing everything to ensure your safety and comfort.”

In addition to the car syndicate, Hajjar had earlier made inspection tours of the six Tawafa establishments in charge of guiding pilgrims, the unified office of the Zamazima (in charge of providing holy water to the pilgrims) and the unified office of the agents in charge of processing Haj procedures for pilgrims.

The minister will also be going to Madinah as part of his current field tours of all government and private establishments to assess their readiness for the hajj season.

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014.

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