(MENAFN - Arab News) Al-Shuala Al-Kabida, the contracting company of Haramain speed rail project, expects the first train journey between Makkah and Madinah to start in 52 months from now.
"Al-Arab Company will complete the first phase of the project very soon," said Osama Adib Salama, the company's finance director, in an interview with Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat.
"The lay over time in each station will be only seven minutes to reduce the total duration of rides between Makkah and Madinah to two and a half hours, instead of five hours by road," he added.
The Haramain project, widely known in industry circles as HHR, is a 444-km high-speed intercity rail transport system that will link the two holy cities of Madinah and Makkah via King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh and King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.
The Makkah-Madinah rail link is part of the major railway expansion project, which includes linking Jeddah with Riyadh and Dammam.
The Makkah-Jeddah-Madinah rail link is expected to carry more than 150,000 passengers daily during peak seasons, such as for Haj and Umrah.
The link, initiated by the Saudi Rail Organization, is one of the country's major infrastructure projects, and is intended to bolster social and cultural connections between Saudi Arabia's western cities.
"It is the first project of its kind. The train will accommodate 420 passengers per trip, and it would be the first train in Saudi Arabia to run at a speed of 300 kilometers per hour," said Salama.
He indicated that amendments would have to be made for the passengers' luggage system, as the baggage of pilgrims differs from normal luggage. It may require the allocation of a luggage cart or a reduction in the number of seats in the passenger compartments.