Saudi Arabia opens high-speed train

Saudi Arabia opens high-speed train linking Islam's holiest cities

Saudi Arabia opens high-speed train linking Islam's holiest cities

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has inaugurated a long-awaited $6.7bn (£5.1bn) high-speed railway line connecting Islam's two holiest cities.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud also attended the event together with the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, taking part in the maiden journey of the new railway.

The 450-km train line connects the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with stations at Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport, and King Abdullah Economic City.

Previously, the only way to travel between Mecca and Medina was by road, a journey that took six hours.

Rumaih Al-Rumaih, chairman of the Public Transport Authority (PTA) and acting president of the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO), said that supervision of the project had ensured the operational efficiency of the project and all facilities were of the highest quality.

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The train travels at a speed of 300km/h and reduces the travel time between Makkah and Madinah to just about two hours.

Project manager Mohammed Fallatah said the train would offer fast and reliable transportation to pilgrims as well as Saudis and foreign residents.

The Haramain Express will be the first high-speed train to operate in the region. 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.

Officials hope it will transport 60 million passengers annually and ease traffic congestion for Muslim pilgrims.

The Faisalia project, running from the edge of Mecca towards the Red Sea, aims to attract visitors to coastal getaways and Islamic research centres. Speaking at the inauguration, the King, who is Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, said 'we have put our trust in Allah, and we ask Allah to grant success.' Following the ceremony, he boarded one of the Talgo-built trainsets for a trip to Madinah.

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