Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs Prince Mansour bin Miteb will inspect the Mashair Railway project on Sunday, Al-Madinah reported yesterday. It was quoting undersecretary of the ministry Habib Zain Al-Abideen, who is supervisor of the central projects at the holy sites.
He said during the visit, the minister would check if the train is ready to transport pilgrims during the upcoming Haj season, tour the three main stations, and follow up the train’s operational plan during Haj. Zain Al-Abideen said the ministry was considering using buses to transport pilgrims from faraway camps to the train stations. The company that operates the train has already started experimental operation, which will continue until Oct. 1. During this period, the company will carry out maintenance work at the stations.
There are 20 trains of each 300 meters long and with a capacity of 3,500 pilgrims per trip. The trains will be transporting about 72,000 pilgrims in one hour, and over six hours they will be transporting 500,000 pilgrims from Makkah to Mina and then from Mina to Arafat. The company has started receiving applications from Saudi youths for seasonal jobs during the Haj season. There are about 4,000 job opportunities for them to work as security guards and administrators.
Director-General of the project Fahd Muhammad Abu Tarboush said the train is characterized by its fast speed and height above the ground. He said the train would cross the distance between Arafat and Mina in 13 minutes and between Arafat and Muzdalifah in seven minutes.
Undersecretary for Haj affairs and transport Sahal Al-Sabban said the ascent from Mina to Arafat and the return of pilgrims to Muzdalifah would be done according to a tight schedule that would ensure the easy and safe arrival of pilgrims to the holy sites.
He said pilgrims living in camps 500 meters away from the main station would be brought by buses.
Meanwhile, Undersecretary of the Haj Ministry Isa bin Muhammad Rawwas has threatened Umrah service companies that they will not be granted visas for their pilgrims if the latter decide to overstay in the Kingdom. “The Umrah companies’ electronic systems for processing of visas will automatically be stopped if the company’s pilgrims do not leave the Kingdom on time,” he said. Rawwas said the maximum limit of overstaying should not exceed 1 percent or 500 pilgrims, after which the Umrah company will be subjected to punishment.
He said the ministry had asked all Umrah service providers to supply it with their operational plans consisting of the number of pilgrims they will be bringing in, their nationalities, and dates of their arrivals and departures.
Rawwas described the latest Umrah season, which climaxed in Ramadan, to be the largest in the history of the Kingdom. “More than 5.3 million people came for Umrah during this season,” he recalled.
He said the largest number of Umrah visas were given to Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey.
According to Rawwas, 3.3 million pilgrims arrived via King Abdulaziz International Airport, while about a million of them came through Prince Muhammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah.
He said until last week, about 120,000 pilgrims still remained in Madinah waiting to go back home.