King OKs Rail Link Between Holy Cities

King OKs Rail Link Between Holy Cities

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has ordered the implementation of the Makkah-Jeddah-Madinah railway project using Saudi local funds, Transport Minister Dr. Jabara Al-Seraisry announced yesterday.

He said the royal directive would speed up the implementation of the project known as Makkah-Madinah Rail Link (MMRL), which is estimated to cost SR20 billion ($5.33 billion) and bring about revolutionary changes in the transportation of pilgrims between the two holy cities.

The minister said the MMRL, designed to operate trains with a speed of over 300 km per hour, would reduce travel time between Jeddah and Makkah to 30 minutes and between Jeddah and Madinah to not more than two hours.

The MMRL includes the construction of approximately 500 km of new high-speed electrified railway lines between Jeddah and Makkah and between Jeddah and Madinah. Railway lines will be equipped with modern signaling and telecommunications systems.

“We have already finalized the route for the rail project and identified the locations for stations in Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted the minister as saying. He said the project would improve the quality of public transport in the Kingdom.

An informed source told Arab News that special committees are currently surveying the land along the route to implement the project. The committees will also estimate the money to be paid to land owners in compensation after land acquisition.

MMRL will have stations at Jeddah Islamic Port, King Abdul Aziz International Airport and King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh, the source said, adding that it would pass by the eastern border of Jeddah.

Six consortia — the Al-Rajhi Consortium, the Saudi Binladin Group, Saudi Oger, the Saudi Japanese Consortium, the Al-Sholah Consortium and the OHL International — are vying for the contract.

In a previous statement, Al-Seraisry said the six consortia would be invited to submit their tenders within a few months. Railway contractors believe that the project would be awarded to one consortium or two consortia by the beginning of 2009 after completing studies on financial and technical offers.

The MMRL aims to provide a safe, fast, and comfortable mode of transport for an estimated 10 million Umrah and Haj pilgrims traveling between the two holy cities and Jeddah. The project will be implemented on a design, build, operate and transfer (DBOT) basis.

Highlighting the profitability of the project, Al-Seraisry said the MMRL would make SR500 million by 2010 and SR750 million by 2030. The populations of Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah are collectively in excess of five million. Jeddah is home to about 2.8 million people.

The MMRL is part of a major railway expansion program, which involves the construction of 950 km of new tracks between Riyadh and Jeddah and a 115 km line between Dammam and Jubail.

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