The second largest annual gathering of Moslems is the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. This week, King Salman of Saudi Arabia launched the Haramain High Speed Railway at Jeddah’s Al-Sulaymaniyah station. Opening to the public next month, the electric railway will whisk up to 60 million passengers a year with a fleet of thirty-five trains carrying just over four hundred passengers per journey. The line links the two religious’ sites of Mecca and Medina with Jeddah, and additionally the King Abdul Aziz International Airport, and the King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh a distance of 450km.
Minister of transport, Dr. Nabil Al-Amoudi, delivered a speech saying that the Kingdom had always been proud of serving pilgrims. “The two holy places are now even closer”, he said. He also presented the King with a picture showing King Abdul Aziz and King Saud at the opening of the East Train in 1951, King Abdul Aziz is as we can see also celebrated in the name of the airport.
Transport plays a key part in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy and is seen as a key component of both the national economy and its renaissance. Being responsible for two of the Muslim holy sites attracts a great number of visitors and the chairman of the Saudi Railways Organisation said they were keen to provide a trustworthy project that reflects the Kingdoms care for pilgrims and visitors of the holy sites, as well as citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia. Maybe they could teach Network Rail a thing or two.
The project was completed in three phases; firstly, the route was cleared and levelled involving the constructions of one hundred and forty bridges and the removal of an astonishing 150 million cubic metres of sand and rock. Once the national and international companies had completed the route, the next element was the construction of four of the five stations. The station at the airport was built as part of its own construction project. Finally, the five stations were linked with the construction of the railway line and the associated systems which are responsible for signalling, controls, tickets and telecommunications.
The ceremony concluded with the King taking the train from Jeddah to Medina with the train being captained by a Saudi National driver, Abdullah Al-Ahmadi.