The first high-speed electric trains between Makkah and Madinah will be running by September, Saudi Transport Minister Nabil bin Mohammed Al-Amoudi said on Sunday.
The high-speed electric train is designed to travel at speeds of more than 300 kilometers per hour and is considered the fastest in the Middle East.
The railway will be able to carry 60 million passengers a year by the time it is fully operational at the beginning of 2019, Al-Amoudi said.
The 450-kilometer main line will travel through King Abdullah Economic City, with a short branch line to the new King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah.
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Transport is a main pillar of the national economy and a key driver of the economic renaissance that will take place under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy, Al-Amoudi told the opening session of the two-day Makkah Economic Forum at The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Jeddah.
Aside from the Makkah-Madinah railway, the other major transport project is the new airport in Jeddah, the minister said. It will begin operations this month, with a limited number of domestic flights. Further domestic flights will be added in July and September, along with six new gates for international flights.
KAIA will be fully operational in the first three months of 2019, with a total of 46 gates. It will be five times the size of the existing airport, with a capacity of 30 million passengers a year, the minister said.
In addition, the aviation sector planned to develop a further 12 domestic airports, Al-Amoudi said. He described KAIA as one of the most important projects of the Civil Aviation Authority, considering it as a quality shift in the services of the airport, which is five times bigger than the existing one and with a capacity to accommodate more than 30 million travelers.
He said the first phase of the airport’s operational plan will start in May and will include a limited number of domestic flights through six gates. Other domestic flights through five gates will be added in July. In the third phase starting in September, the designed number of domestic flights will be completed and a number of international flights will be added through six new gates, which increases the total number to 17 gates.
By Mohammed Al-Kinani & Ruba Obaid
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