Saudi Minister of Transport Jubarah Al-Suraisri said five of the Al-Haramain train stations will be completed this year, Al-Watan daily reported.
He explained that the 450-km long railway will greatly facilitate travel between the two holy cities, especially by Umrah and Haj pilgrims. He said the Haramain trains will travel at an average speed of 300 kilometers an hour.
"The railway passes through many cities, valleys, mountains and desert areas, and has more than 137 bridges and 450 crossovers," he said. Al-Suraisri noted that 70 percent of the work on the stations has been completed.
He pointed out that Al-Rusaifah station in Makkah is the largest station, which can accommodate up to 20,000 passengers an hour and 10 trains at a time.
"The station being built in a rundown neighborhood will be one of the best train stations in the world," he added.
Emir of Makkah Prince Mishal Bin Abdullah made an inspection tour of the train station in Al-Rusaifah on Sunday.
Al-Suraisri explained that trial runs will be conducted for a few months to ensure that the trains are ready to carry passengers.
He also mentioned that the train project faced a number of obstacles since it passes through difficult terrain.
Feasibility studies indicate that the train service will carry 20 million passengers a year.
*This article was originall published in Saudi Gazette on June 17, 2014.