JEDDAH – Inaugurated three weeks ago, the $6.7 billion Haramain high-speed railway, which links Islam’s two holiest cities of Makkah and Madinah, is now fully operational, Ilmfeed reported.
The 450-km railway is projected with an annual target of 60 million passengers. It will reduce the time required for hajj pilgrims and citizens to travel between Makkah and Madinah by half.
The project will eventually link to a new terminal being built at the airport in the coastal city of Jeddah, streamlining travel for visiting pilgrims.
After being dogged with several delays for years, the train will be ready to transport pilgrims during the next hajj season in September 2019.
Makkah and Madinah are the ultimate destination of the hajj when as much as three million Muslims visit both cities to conduct hajj rituals.
In fact, Muslims visiting the city of Makkah account for the majority of KSA’s 20 million annual foreign visitors.
The project comes in light of the Ministry of Hajj’s plan to boost the number of Hajj visitors to five million annually by 2020, and Umrah visitors to 30 million annually by 2030.
Moreover, the rail project also services the Umrah visitors who arrive for a nonmandatory pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time of the year.