Millions of Muslims go on the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina every year. A new high speed train planned by Saudi Arabia is bound to make the journey smoother, cooler, and much more environmentally-friendly.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long been thought of as a country where white gowned sheikhs drive luxury American, German, and Japanese cars along desert highways at break-necked speeds from one city or village or another, and then simply dump their car in the desert when it has outlived its usefulness.
Now, it appears that this mode of transportation may finally be augmented by a network of high speed commuter trains, which will be built alongside major highways, and will connect the country’s two holiest cities, Makkah (Mecca) and Medinah with the country’s largest port city, Jeddah.
A joint venture agreement singed between the London based Foster + Partners architecture and planning company, and the Buro Hapold engineering consulting giant (also headquartered in the UK) to design the fast commuter train network, which will connect the Kingdom’s holy sites with a four station train capable of reaching speeds up to 300 km per hour.
The project will be designed to make it easier for religious pilgrims to reach Makkah and Medinah, by an alternative and fast means of transport, other than buses and private vehicles, especially during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, when as many as 3 million pilgrims descend on the country in a short period of time.
With an environmental aspect as fragile as that in the desert Kingdom, when summer temperatures reach as high as 50 degrees C; and passenger congestion during the Hajj making it very difficult for many pilgrims to reach the holy sites in time to perform their obligatory religious rites, the trains will be a welcome addition and will be much better for the environment, with less gasoline and diesel vehicles on the road.
The design of the four stations will be such as to allow required
separation between male and female travelers, as well as allowing more comfort for all. It is hoped that this new mode of transportation will encourage more cross cultural ties between the pilgrims who come from all over the world. Women will have a much more comfortable means to reach the holy sites, not being able to drive within the Kingdom.
The project, which costs SR 6.65 billion, will be completed within two years from the commencing date. It will operate by 35% of its capacity during 1431 AH. Hajj season and fully during 1433 AH. Hajj season, according to Haj Information.
Both Foster + Partners and Buro Hapold have offices in many parts of Middle East, including the UAE, Egypt, and Kuwait, as well as in the Kingdom. The unique architectural station designs being planned will use a modular approach, enabling faster delivery and erection on site.
Where the women will sit on the trains themselves will obviously be
considered; especially for those coming from less strict Islamic
environments, such as America and the UK.
Have any tips for green Haggees? If so, write about them in the comments section. Hajj this year is in November.