Habeeb Zain Al-Abidine, deputy minister of municipal and rural affairs, said the monorails would transport 500,000 pilgrims between the holy sites within six to eight hours.
“This will help withdraw at least 30,000 small and large buses from the Haj service,” said Zain .Al-Abidene while addressing a seminar on civil engineering projects for Haj.
Zain Al-Abidine said the monorail project, which is estimated to cost SR6.75 billion would bring about a major shift in pilgrim transportation, a major headache of Haj managers. “This project will reduce overcrowding in the holy sites, reduce pressure on roads and help pilgrims reach their destinations early,” he said.
He added that the project would be partially operational next year and fully operational a year later. “Once we find this project to be a success, we’ll apply this system for the transportation of pilgrims even outside the holy sites,” he said.
Studies are now under way on extending the monorail to a station close to the Grand Mosque in Makkah in order to link it with the Haramain Railway that connects the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
An agreement on implementing the multibillion riyal project was signed in the presence of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Chinese President Hu Jintao in Riyadh on Feb. 10. The project is designed to transport five million pilgrims.
Zain Al-Abidine, who is also secretary-general of the Commission for Development of Makkah, Madinah and the Holy Sites, said a feasibility study conducted by an international company had proposed five monorails linking the holy sites.
“The feasibility study suggested the second monorail be built two to three years after the construction of the first one,” he said, adding that a single monorail would cost SR4 billion. The first monorail beginning from Mina will transport nearly one million pilgrims including 360,000 Arab pilgrims.
Monorail, which is a single rail serving as the track for a wheeled or (magnetically) levitating vehicle, has been rapidly paving its way as a modern urban transit system, providing the most-sought-after transportation solutions for a built-up congested city. The Makkah monorails will be 8 to 10 meters above ground to ensure the smooth flow of pedestrians and vehicles.
Faisal Al-Ghamdi from the Saudi Railway Organization said it would speed up the transport of pilgrims and others between Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah.