Saudi Arabia opens high-speed rail linking holy cities

By Hussein Mahmoud Ragab Elkabany and Said Ibicioglu

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AA) – Saudi Arabia launched a high-speed railway Tuesday connecting Islam’s holiest cities.

The 450-kilometer (280-mile) Haramain High-Speed Rail system linking Makkah and Medina is expected to relieve traffic congestion and is also part of efforts to boost tourism and reduce reliance on oil revenue.

With a speed of up to 300 kilometers per hour, the electric trains on the line will carry around 60 million passengers per year.

Saudi Arabia’s official SPA news agency reported that King Salman bin Abdulaziz inaugurated the railway line in Jeddah.

The railway line has five stations: Makkah, Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City, King Abdulaziz International Airport and Medina, said Saudi Transport Minister Nabil bin Mohammed Al-Amoudi, who was honored at its launching.

Travel time will be sharply reduced to less than three hours from Makkah to Medina and the rail line offers a more comfortable trip to passengers on its electrified trains equipped with cutting-edge technology.

Saudi Arabia welcomed roughly 10 million pilgrims last year for Hajj and Umrah.