Riyadh: The $16 billion (SR60 billion, Dh58.7 billion) high-speed Haramain Express train is on track to roll out this year following delays, a senior Saudi official has said.
Nabeel 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 Haj 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.
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Japan’s “bullet trains”, also known as Shinkansen, have a maximum operating speed of 320kph.
Haramain Express 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, was with senior officials from 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–Madinah high-speed railway”, is a 453-kilometre-long 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 449.2km of main line and a 3.75km branch connection to KAIA.
Madinah Governor Prince Faisal Bin Salman expressed his appreciation to King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz 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.
The Haramain service, initially scheduled to roll out 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 train. The train service is expected to play a role in realising Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 by harnessing its energies to serve pilgrims and guests.