Preparations are underway to begin operations of the high-speed Haramain Express train line by the end of this month, officials announced on Tuesday.
The 450km line, linking the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City of Rabigh, was originally due to open in 2012 but has been hit by delays and cost increases.
On Tuesday, minister of transport Dr Nabil bin Mohammed Al Amoudi inspected the projects and stressed its operational readiness, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Al Amoudi and other officials checked the equipment and preparation in all the stations to ensure the implementation of the “highest standards of quality in the efficiency of operation, maintenance and control”, the report said.
They first inspected the Al-Haramain Highway Station (Sulaymaniyah) in Jeddah – one of the main stations. Spread over an area of about 461,000 square metres, the station features a VIP lounge, a mosque with a capacity for 600 worshipers, a civil defence centre, a helicopter landing pad and 6,000 parking lots divided into short and long term parking spaces.
The minister then took the train in the direction of Al-Rusayfah station in Makkah. The journey took about 21 minutes, at a speed of up to 300 km/h. He also inspected the station, which covers more than 503,000 square metres of space. The main terminal building includes a lounge for arrivals and departures, VIP lounges, a mosque for 600 worshipers, a civil defence centre and a helipad, and 5,000 parking spaces.
Trial runs of the project were completed in November last year, and free tickets were also handed out to citizens earlier this year ahead of the official launch.
The Haramain rail project will be operated by 35 passenger cars with a capacity of 417 passengers on two-way trips between Makkah and Madinah.
The line has five stations — two terminus stations in Makkah and Madinah, and two central stations in Jeddah and Rabigh, and a fifth station at King Abdulaziz International Airport built by the General Authority of Civil Aviation.
The train will travel at speeds of 300kmh and reduce journey times between Makkah and Jeddah to 21 minutes, Jeddah to King Abdulaziz Airport to 14 minutes, King Abdulaziz Airport to Rabigh to 36 minutes and Rabigh to Madinah to 61 minutes.
Travel between Makkah and Madinah will take less than two and a half hours.
Later stages could see the line linked to Jeddah Islamic Port and Makkah’s metro.
The train line is eventually intended to handle 60 million passengers per year when it reaches fully capacity from the first quarter of 2019.