Haramain train between Mecca and Madinah to begin operations in 2017

In its first trip, the train will depart from Mecca to Madinah via Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic city in Rabigh

The Haramain high speed railway project will begin operations in the next six months, although only some stations will be open initially.

In its first trip, the train will depart from Mecca to Madinah via Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic city in Rabigh, local daily Arab News reported. The fares have not yet been revealed.

The SAR62bn ($16.5bn) project is due to be completed by the end of next year and will provide 35 passenger cars on two-way trips between Mecca and Madinah every half an hour.

Currently only 10km of the line are functional, including 7km in Mecca and 3km in Jeddah’s Al-Harazat district, the report stated.

Haramain High Speed Rail project director Bassam bin Ahmed Ghulman said the expansion of Al-Shafaa Street, in central Mecca, would take two more months to complete.

Overall, he said that the project used more than 1.9 million meters of telecommunication cables, about four million tonnes of gravel and more than 1,500 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras for control and command.

“Jeddah station is the largest as a facility, but Al-Rusaifah station in Mecca is the most expensive in terms of contracting,” he was quoted as saying.

The 450km line is expected to cut travel between Mecca 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.

The project was originally due to open in 2012 but has been hit by delays and cost increases.

In late November, it was announced that the Spanish consortium building the rail link had reached a preliminary deal with the Saudi government to finalise the works after the delays.

The Al Shoula consortium comprising 12 Spanish companies and two Saudi firms had become embroiled in a dispute over payments with the Saudi government.

The consortium’s contract, valued at 6.7bn euros ($7.11bn), is expected to be extended to March 2018, 14 months later than originally planned, a spokesman said.

Read more: Spanish firms reach deal with Saudi over Mecca-Medina rail link

The Haramain rail project is the largest transportation project in the Middle East, with an estimated 120-year lifespan for all expandable facilities, Arab News quoted Ghulman as saying.

“The train will transport 19,600 passengers per hour between Mecca and Jeddah at full capacity, and 3,800 passengers between Mecca and Madinah per hour,” he added.