Phase II of Saudi Arabia’s 276 mile Haramain High Speed Rail Project (HHR) is now underway. The Kingdom is getting 35 swanky new trains and 4 stations designed by Foster + Partners for a cool $8.21 million. By the end of 2012, the stations are expected to accommodate 60 million passengers each year, although that number could increase to as many as 135 million by 2042, according to World Architecture News.
Getting that many Saudis off the road will be a boon for climate change, especially given our recent alarm over giant plumes of methane that could accelerate planetary warming. With speeds of up to 187 miles per hour that will get passengers from Jeddah to Makkah in less than half an hour, we can safely say the HHR project is Saudi-slick enough to encourage people to park their cars at home.
Each of the four new stations are designed in accordance with traditional Islamic architecture and will feature the iconic arched roof canopies. In addition to the transportation services, the stations will provide socializing space, refuge from Saudi’s scorching sun, as well as opportunities to purchase food.
Although statistically Arabs are not sold on the idea of using public transportation, it is hoped that these super efficient rail services will encourage more, thereby reducing the local drain on Saudi’s oil reserves.
The 14 member Saudi/Spain Al Shoula consortium is responsible for constructing railway tracks, installing signaling and telecommunications systems, electrification, developing an operations control center, and purchasing 35 new trains. The consortium is also expected to provide operations and maintenance services over the next 12 years.
Although costly and probably flashier than it ought to be, this project has great potential to bring Saudi Arabia’s carbon footprint down a few notches. We’re kind of looking forward to taking a ride!