In November 2010, the city of Makkah, KSA unveiled its newest and first elevated train spanning a distance of 18.1 km (11.2 miles). The project’s main aim is to help ease the transport process of pilgrims in the Hajj season between the holy sites of Makkah, Muzdalifa, Mount Arafat, and Mena. The rail is constructed parallel to the pedestrian road so that pilgrim tents in Mena are not disturbed.
The project was originally planned to be a monorail, but was changed to a conventional steel-wheel, steel-rail design running on a viaduct. The entire train system, including stations, will be elevated and pilgrims will have access to escalators and staircases to reach it. A Chinese company has undertaken the construction of the railway lines and stations employing 5,000 workers who work round clock. The rail network will initially link the holy sites to the Haramain Railway and other railway networks, and eventually to the Gulf Railway.
Saudi’s estimated that upon completion, the train will make around 53,000 buses disappear from the crowd of the streets in the busy season of Hajj. Saudi Arabia invested $1.8 billion in the Chinese-built train that can hold 3,000 passengers at a time and uses wide ramps in elevated stations meant for a smooth passage. Each of the five lines of the project will have an hourly capacity to carry 60,000 to 80,000 passengers between Mena, Arafat and Muzdalifah, and later between Mena and Makkah. All trains will have 12 large compartments, each of which will be 23 meters long and three meters wide. Msnbc reported that about 100 Egyptian professionals have been brought in to help operate the train during its first year’s hajj because of their experience running Cairo’s metro.
Faisal al-Sharif, a Makkah city council member and engineer, said the train is one of many development projects aiming to turn the holy city into a high-tech metropolis. Other projects include installing wireless connections and adhering to a green policy. The Makkah Metro is third system to operate in the Middle East after Cairo metro -1987 and Dubai metro -2009.
Watch the Makkah train in operation: