Work continues on Saudi Arabia’s Haramain High Speed Rail Network, which will ease congestion and travel difficulties for visitors during the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage. Construction on the large-scale project, which will span 450 kilometres, began in March 2009. Travellers will be transported from Mecca to the second holy city of Islam, Medina – a journey through Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City, King Abdulaziz International Airport and Rabigh.
The network’s electrified double-track line will carry trains at speeds of up to 360km/h, with the 410km journey from Jeddah to Medina set to take around two hours, and the 78km journey from Jeddah to Mecca set to take less than half an hour. The civil works of Phase 1 Package 1 have been contracted to the Al Rajhi Alliance for 6.8b Riyal ($1.8b). The Alliance comprises of the Al Arrab Contracting Company Ltd, Al Suwailem Company, the China Railway Construction Corporation and French rolling stock and power firm Alstom Transport.
Phase 1 Package 2 will deal with station construction in Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City, and King Abdulaziz International Airport; $38m of design contracts have been awarded to the joint venture of Buro Happold and Foster & Partners. Construction contracts for Jeddah and the Economic City stations have been awarded to Saudi Oger, whereas Mecca and Medina stations will be dealt with by Saudi Bin Laden Group.
Canadian firm Bombardier transportation has signed a €281m contract to supply traction and control packages and power car bogies for the project, and Spanish passenger train manufacturer Talgo will supply 350 trains. Spanish engineering firm OHL will build the base superstructure of the track, which will have to endure extreme temperature fluctuations and the interference of sand. The network is set to open in late 2014 or early 2015.