Saudi’s Haramain high-speed train carried out its first trial journey from Jeddah to Makkah on Tuesday, as it prepares to formally launch operations.
The train started from the main station in Jeddah and reached Rusaifa Station at the entrance of the holy city.
The SAR62bn ($16.5bn) project was previously scheduled to begin operations this year, but is now slated to begin running in first quarter of 2018.
The Haramain Railway links the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City of Rabigh.
The 450km long railway 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 Jeddah station will be the main station, with the central control room. The Rusaifah station is 4km away from the Grand Mosque.
When ready, the project will provide 35 passenger cars on two-way trips between Mecca and Madinah.
The trains are being manufactured by Talgo and have a maximum commercial speed of 300km/h. Each train will have 13 cars providing 417 seats, with a total length of 215m.
It 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.
End to end, the travel time between Mecca and Madinah will be less than two and a half hours.
The project was originally due to open in 2012 but has been hit by delays and cost increases.
Saudi’s General Investment Fund (GIF) has financed and facilitated the implementation of the project.