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Saudi pushes back Haramain rail opening until Q3

Saudi pushes back Haramain rail opening until Q3

The line was expected to begin passenger services at the start of the year

The opening of Saudi Arabia’s Haramain high-speed rail line to passengers has been pushed back until at least September, the kingdom’s transport minister has said.

The 450km railway, 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.

Full trials were conducted in November and officials had previously indicated passenger services would begin at the start of 2018.

Read: Saudi officials complete Haramain rail trial from Jeddah to Makkah

Minister of transport Dr Nabil bin Mohammed Al Amoudi told an event in Jeddah on Sunday that the line, described as the fastest in the Middle East, was hoped to begin commercial operations by the end of the third quarter.

It will then reach full capacity in the first quarter of 2019.

He said it would accommodate 60 million passengers a year when fully operational.

The rail project 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.

It will be operated by 35 passenger cars on two-way trips between Makkah and Madinah.

These will travel at speeds of 300kmh and reduce journey times between Makkah and Jeddah to 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.

Read: Saudi’s Haramain railway makes first trial journey to Makkah

In a separate update at the event, Al Amoudi said Jeddah’s new airport would begin operations with limited domestic flights this month.

Further flights will be added in July and September, with the addition of six international gates, before the airport reaches full operations in the first quarter of 2019 with 46 gates.

The airport will be five times the size of the existing facility and accommodate 30 million passengers a year.

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