Makkah-Madinah Rail Link
The Government of Saudi Arabia has finally launched the ambitious project to link Makkah Al-Mukarrama and Madinah Al-Munawwara through rail via Jeddah. The Kingdom’s Saudi Railway Organisation (SRO) has sought tenders from national and international companies to build the 444-km Makkah-Madinah Rail Link (MMRL). The project aims at providing safe, fast, reliable and comfortable mode of transport for Umrah and Hajj pilgrims travelling between the two holy cities and Jeddah. It is expected that the rail link will ease the traffic between the two holy cities in a big way. Almost 50 per cent of the pilgrims are expected to use the high-speed train as it will provide a safe, fast, reliable and comfortable transport service. The existing road and air link will, however, continue to be available to them. The MMRL will be exclusively use by passenger and will not carry any freight. There will be six or seven stations along the route: two to three in Jeddah (Jeddah Central, Jeddah Airport in the terminal building and one possibly near the Hajj terminal); two in Makkah (Makkah Main Station and near the Grand Mosque); one in Madinah, and one in Rabigh near King Abdullah Economic City. The stations will be located as close to the Haram as possible in the two holy cities. The railway authorities say that land for the stations in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah has been identified. A survey is in progress to find a route to reach these locations through the city areas. The stations, to be built by the company that will operate the trains, will reflect the culture of the area. The route of the railway will be finalised depending partly on the chosen technology. In addition to the Makkah-Madinah route, the Saudi planners are also considering light rail for Makkah that would also connect the Hajj Holy Sites. The Makkah-based Institute of Hajj Research and a private firm are in talks to set up light rail network in and around Makkah. The network will also connect the Grand Mosque with Mina and possibly with Arafat. Once ready, it would be a big leap in the development of facilities for Hajj pilgrims. The Institute is also trying to introduce a light rain in central Makkah. This will be quite economical as it will be functional all year round. There is also a plan to set up one in Madinah. During the last two decades Makkah and Madinah have undergone massive expansion. Besides upgrading facilities at the two Holy Mosques, the Saudi government has built a network of roads that connects Makkah and Madinah with other Saudi cities, as well as neighbouring countries. Now the expansion of railway network in the Kingdom will pave the way for linking the Kingdom with other Arab and Gulf countries in the north and south. When the project is completed the Saudi railway will reach close to the Jordanian border. It could subsequently be connected with the Jordanian railway system, and from there, with other Arabian networks, and eventually with Turkey and Europe. This means, besides having air, sea and road links, Makkah and Madinah will be connected with the global railway network. It also means reducing travel costs for pilgrims as well having an easier journey, as is often the case with rail journeys, compared to other modes of transportation.