Dubai: The Holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia is embarking on a mega project to equip the city with an extensive network of public transport that will include metro lines and dedicated bus services, a senior official of the Islamic city announced at the Fourth UITP Mena Congress and Exhibition in Dubai.

Khaled Shamouth, Chairman of Public Transport Authority in Makkah, unveiled the plan during a presentation on day three of the four-day conference.

“We are launching a mass transit system that will cater to the growing population of the city as well as the millions of pilgrims who visit Makkah every year,” said Shamouth.

Makkah welcomes more than nine million Haj and Umrah pilgrims annually in addition to the city’s permanent population of 1.6 million.

“We receive three million Haj pilgrims every year and more than five million Umrah pilgrims who visit the city around the year but mostly during Ramadan. This calls for a massive and innovative service. We are planning to have a metro network spread across 188 kilometres, served by 88 stations on four lanes. Work on the phase one of the project will begin in 2016.

Complementing the metro network will be a modern bus service, initially operated by 400 buses on 100 routes covering 36 million kilometres. The network will be supported by 400 bus stops serving the entire city and will connect with metro at multiple locations.

“The Holy city doesn’t have a public transport system right now. We have embarked on a plan to set up a network of buses to be served by advanced and innovative solutions. We conducted a research and found out a huge demand for the services. We are facing challenges to meet the demand and will cope by implementing innovative solutions,” added Shamouth.