A consortium of Spanish and Saudi companies has been awarded Phase II of the 444km Haramain High Speed Rail Project (HHR).
The project links the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City and King Abulaziz International Airport.
Phase II involves the construction of railway tracks, installation of signalling and telecommunication systems, electrification, realisation of an operational control centre, the procurement of 35 trains, and the operation and maintenance over the next 12 years.
Construction work has now commenced on four stations along the line designed by Buro Happold, Foster + Partners and local architect Dar Al Riyadh.
Once completed in 2012, the stations will be capable of handling 60 million passengers each year. The capacity is expected to increase to an estimated 135 million by 2042.
The new trains will reach speeds in excess of 300 km/h and will serve the millions of pilgrims travelling between the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.