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The Kingdom's Railway Project

The transportation sector is one of the important sectors in any national economy especially in Saudi Arabia because it is distinguished for the abundance of its desert areas, which need to be paved and repaired in order to achieve a revival in all domains. The interest in this sector is due to many factors, mainly: to provide secure movement of passengers and goods on the domestic and international level. This sector is performing a leading role in boosting the national economy by providing multiple services for production and service sectors; also it is one of the most important sectors that provide huge investment opportunities, leading to the development of new job opportunities, in addition to establishing integration and interconnection between the communities and agricultural and industrial areas.

The idea of the railway occurred in 1366 AH (1947 AD), when His Majesty King Abdul Aziz, may God rest his soul, ordered the establishment of a railway linking the port of Dammam with the capital Riyadh for the purpose of transporting goods, commodities, foodstuffs, and building and construction materials imported via Dammam to Riyadh. The railway was officially opened by His Majesty King Abdul Aziz, may God rest his soul, on 19/1/1371 AH corresponding to October 20, 1951 AD. In 1405 AH, 1985 AD, a new 450 km railway was established which reduced the travel time and distance to (4) hours instead of (7) hours.

Contracts to build a railway linking the north and south were established, which aims to serve the new phosphate and aluminum factories. Currently a study is being conducted of a decision to establish a contract which provides fast train service transferring pilgrims from Jeddah to Mecca in half an hour and to Medina in two hours.

In addition, the General Institution for Railways is planning to build lines linking Jeddah with Jazan and Taif, with Khamis Mushayt, where a feasibility study for these projects is currently being conducted.

Four groups offered their proposals for this project, which will include the construction and operation of a railway stretching on a 945 kilometers distance from Jeddah Islamic Port to the Arabian Gulf, and another railway that extends for a distance of 115 km linking between the port of Dammam and Jubail Industrial City.

It is noted that these initiatives primarily aim to reduce transportation costs for remote industrial areas and linking it major cities, eventually leading to achieve high revenue growth and thus booming and developing the national economy.

The Kingdom is currently implementing and establishing several agreements for new railway projects designed to expand and strengthen the infrastructure and link the important markets of the cities to the industrial zones in order attract investors who are seeking low costs, especially in transportation, like the establishment of a new railway line between Riyadh, Mecca, and Jeddah or between Jeddah, Mecca, and Medina, and the industrial areas, one of the most important requirements of the society. It will be built according to international standards to meet the achieved status and the trade, economical, and tourist activity of the Kingdom.

And diesel-powered trains with capacity of 400 containers will operate on this line at speeds of up to 120 kilometers per hour, in addition to passengers and travelers trains which will go twice that speed.

The British press devoted a wide space for the Railways Project in the Kingdom, where the British Financial Times published an article supported with maps on a recognized activity in the construction of railway lines in Saudi Arabia at a cost of up to twenty-five billion dollars. The paper talked about the construction of three railway lines, covering thousands of kilometers to connect the industrial areas and phosphate and bauxite mines in the east with the center of the country, and lines linking the capital Riyadh with the city of Haditha in Jordan, and a third line for pilgrims linking between Mecca and Medina. It is expected to be completed within few years. This coverage of the British Financial Times shows the revival and development the Kingdom is witnessing in all areas during the era of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz.

Components of the Two Holy Mosues' train project:
   » Establishment of electrified railways in the regions of Mecca and Medina over a length of more than 450 km equipped with modern signals and communication systems.
   » Provide express trains with the latest techniques and equipments that combine between the necessity, the entertainment, and the enjoyment.
   » During the first phase, five passenger's stations will be constructed; including two in Mecca, two in Jeddah in each of King Abdul Aziz airport and downtown, and the fifth station will be in Medina. It is expected for the second phase to witness building another station in King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh.
   » Maintenance and operation of the project and provide additional energy to meet the growing demand over the concession period.

The Importance of the Project:
The Two Holy Mosques train project is an urgent need at the present time for several reasons; the most important is the growing number of pilgrims and Umrah performers year after year, with more than 2.5 million pilgrims annually and two million Umrah performers during the holy month of Ramadan, in addition to Umrah performers and visitors who come to Mecca and Medina during the holiday seasons all year round, and the intense movement of passengers on the Fridays of each week to pray in the Prophet's Mosque, as well as the commercial traffic between the cities associated with the network; and the transport of university students among the three major cities of Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah.

The main activity of the project:
The main activity of the project is the transfer of passengers who are mostly of pilgrims and Umrah performers. It is expected that the annual transport volume of the project will reach more than three million passengers per year, as statistics show that during the pilgrimage season of 1426 AH more than 3.5 million pilgrims were transported on the highways between Mecca, Jeddah, and Medina, while the number of Umrah performers in the same year exceeded two million.

According to a study prepared by the Ministry of Hajj on the development of pilgrims transport sector, the numbers of pilgrims and Umrah performers are expected to double during the next twenty-five years to more than three million pilgrims and 11 million Umrah performers, with an annual increase rate for pilgrims 41.1% and 14.3% for Umrah performers, which revive the hopes of the expansion of transport activity by train on this track and encourage investment.

The effects and benefits of the project:
   » Reduce pressure on the roads between the two cities where the high-tech express train will connect Mecca and Medina via Jeddah through several stations. It is an ideal solution to reduce traffic bottlenecks associated with that intensive movement.
   » Comfort and safety available on the train which makes it the best option for travel since the express electric train would arrive from Medina to Jeddah in two hours and from Jeddah to Mecca in half an hour.
   » The project combines between two models of modern uses of railways, the models of "express train" and "airport connection" which proved to be globally successful under appropriate conditions.
   » The project links a number of attraction areas visited by large numbers of travelers, which means that important economic effects will reflect positively on the production cost and accessibility and transportation of passengers and cargo.
   » It is expected that this project will develop tourism activity within the Kingdom which possesses the needed elements of tourist attraction due to the presence of many antiquities and historic areas.
   » In addition, the Institution is currently studying the line of the southern region, which consists of two projects: the first links Abha with the land bridge via Khamis Mushayt and Taif, and the second links the province of Jeddah with Jazan region.

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