The $16 billion (SR60 billion) high-speed “Haramain Express” train is on track to roll out this 2018 following delays, a senior Saudi official has said.
Nabil Al-Amoudi, Minister of Transportation and Chairman of the Saudi Railway Organisation, was quoted by Jeddah-based daily Arab News as saying that the new train service will be ready to serve the public this year, following final safety checks and operational readiness carried out for high-speed trains.
The service is expected to carry up to 60 million passengers a year, including millions of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims. Construction started in March 2009.
Using electric propulsion that will drive the trains to an operating speed of 300kph, the express train is expected to cut travel time between the cities of Makkah and Madinah to under two hours, instead of six hours by bus.
The service is also expected to help ease road traffic congestion.
Japan's "bullet train", also known as Shinkansen, has a maximum operating speed of 320kph.
Haramain Express, designed to reach speeds of up to 360kph, has been undergoing tests since the end of 2017, said Al-Amoudi.
The network has also been organising regular trips in which a large number of officials of government, non-government and charitable bodies have participated.
The latest test, conducted on Friday, carried with senior officials on board from the Saudi city of Madinah, the paper reported.
The report, however, did not mention a specific roll-out date.
High-speed intercity transport
The Haramain high-speed rail project, also known as the "Western railway" or "Makkah–Medina high-speed railway", is a 453-kilometre-long (281 mi) high-speed inter-city rail transport system in Saudi Arabia.
It links the cities of Madinah and Makkah via King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), as well as Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA), using 449.2 kilometres (279.1 mi) of main line and a 3.75-kilometre (2.33 mi) branch connection to KAIA.
Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal Bin Salman expressed his appreciation to King Salman for his support of public transport in the Kingdom, and especially for the high-speed train.
The project forms part of the Kingdom’s efforts to serve pilgrims to the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Prince Faisal praised the performance of the young men and women at the train stations, those involved in the construction as well as the implementation of the service.
The train official said the new Haramain Express will take transport in the Kingdom to the next level, build opportunities for nationalisation and achieve the Kingdom’s vision.
The Haramain service, initially scheduled to roll in 2012, is one of the biggest public transport projects in the Middle East, involving the use of some 15,000 power pylons and boring through mountains.
Umrah visitors, who are expected to reach about 15 million by 2020, are eagerly waiting for the full operation of the Haramain train, which will cut travel between the two holy cities in two hours, instead of six hours by bus.
The train service is expected to play a role in realizing Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 by harnessing its energies to serve pilgrims and guests.
The project was originally planned to open in 2012, but faced delays.
Here’s a Twitter video of the Haramain Express train in Jeddah during tests last year.
Saudi Haramain Express Train
60 million – number of passengers to be served per year
453 km – the distance covered by the two-way electric trains, linking the Saudi cities of Makkah and Madinah with extensions to Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City.
5 – number of stations on the system (Makkah, Madinah via Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport and King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Rabigh).
35 trains — number of trains to be used on the line
417 - Seating capacity per train
300kph – Maximum speed the Haramain Express Train
15 million – number of Umrah visitors to Saudi Arabia expected by 2020