Mashaer rail network ensures smooth traffic

Updated 09 October 2013

Mashaer rail network ensures smooth traffic

The Mashaer Railway network linking Makkah to Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah — the holy sites visited by the guests of God to perform Haj — helps immensely in reducing traffic bottlenecks during the peak season.
The pilgrimage, which is the largest annual gathering of people in the world, witnesses pilgrims coming for Haj and safety of the huge number is of utmost importance.
The railway transports pilgrims between the holy sites to reduce congestion caused by buses and cars during the Haj.
It also carries pilgrims performing Umrah throughout the year.
Local authorities estimate that the railway has replaced around 50,000 buses, promising a safer and more comfortable pilgrimage.
Commenting on the preparation, the Haj affairs transport department maintains that the administration is committed to use the best urban planning and smartest technology to ensure that the pilgrimage is safe and comfortable apart from being incident free.
A department official said: “There are 20 trains, each 300-meter long and with a capacity of 3,500 pilgrims per trip.
The trains will be transporting about 72,000 pilgrims in an hour, and over six hours 500,000 pilgrims from Makkah to Mina and then from Mina to Arafat.
The railway also hires young citizens for seasonal jobs during Haj.
The official said that there are about 4,000 job opportunities for them to work as security guards and administrators to provide support to pilgrims during the peak season.
Moreover, Saudi authorities have contracted a specialized security company to organize the boarding of pilgrims onto Mashaer Railway trains during the Haj season.
The company is specialized in crowd management and it would train Saudis in Haj security services, the official added.
According to him, the company has also recruited Saudi nationals who speak languages other than Arabic for Haj duty and provided them with an intensive training.
The newly trained Saudi nationals will be deployed at Mashaer Railway stations at the holy sites beginning this week, when the railway begins operating its regular service.
An official said the move was aimed at ensuring the safety and security of pilgrims who travel on the trains and preventing pilgrims who are not authorized to use them from boarding the carriages.
Fahd Muhammad Abu Tarboush, director-general of the railway project in the region, said the train is characterized by its fast speed and height above the ground.
He said the ascent from Mina to Arafat and the return of pilgrims to Muzdalifah would take place according to a tight schedule that would ensure the easy and safe arrival of pilgrims to the holy sites.
Sharing more details on the railway services during Haj, he said pilgrims living in camps 500 meters away from the main station would be brought by buses.
The Haj ministry has organized a workshop for departments to discuss the problems of rail transport during Haj seasons.
It also called on departments to strive for a successful grouping strategy for train travel.
In a solution to keep railway stations safe from the influx of crowds, they will fence off the station area so that undocumented or ticketless pilgrims cannot enter the station premises, thus avoiding overcrowding at the station unnecessarily, thereby checking stampede chances.
Furthermore, in order to ensure unimpeded transportation and timely movement, there will be a 25 percent reduction in the number of pilgrims traveling by trains at the holy sites during the Haj season this year as against the number of pilgrims allowed on the trains last year, a Haj ministry official said recently.
“The ministry plans to reduce the capacity of trains to 377,000 pilgrims this year as part of its measures to avoid repeating travel delays and other issues that arose last year,” said Abdul Rahman Endijani, director general of transport at the Ministry of Haj.
The train service will only be open for domestic and Gulf pilgrims this year, he said, adding that the ministry began considering the proposal for reducing the number of pilgrims earlier this year after it organized a workshop for departments to discuss the problems of rail transport during Haj seasons.
It also called on departments to strive for a successful grouping strategy for train travel.
He said another solution being implemented to keep railway stations safe from the influx of crowds is to fence off the station area so that undocumented or ticketless pilgrims cannot enter the station premises.
In order to ensure a glitch-free system during the Haj season, trains have been operating since the last month, said Endijani. He said the beginning of the trial run was aimed at ensuring safe and unobstructed transportation.
The current contract of the Chinese company with the Mashaer Railway will end this year, after which a tender will be issued for the next Haj and Umrah season as the railway services will be available next year during Ramadan as well, he added.
Mashaer Railway trains running between Arafat and Jamarat Bridge were flagged off with the aim of reducing the endless traffic bottlenecks at the holy sites during the Haj seasons in a record time and it is stated to be the world’s fastest ‘design, build to operate’ metro in the world within 22 months as it was opened on Nov. 13, 2010 in time for the Haj 1431 season.
It was initially operated at 35 percent capacity with automatic train protection to assist manual driving. A member of staff was due to be retained on board once driverless operations were introduced in 2011, when the service was flagged off for all pilgrims and by the time of the 2011 Haj (Haj 1432) it was able to operate at 100 percent capacity and is estimated to have carried more that 3.95 million passengers making it, for that period, the most intensively used metro line in the world and among the busiest systems in the world.
In peak periods, the line operates with a special ‘group shuttle’ schedule with three departure stations and three arrival stations. Apart from Mashaer railway there is the Makkah railway network, officially known as the Makkah Mass Rail Transit Project (MMRTP), which is a metro system under construction in the holy city. Moreover, the government approved $16.5 billion to build the remaining four lines (182 km, 88 stations) of the system in August 2012.
The new SR62 billion Makkah public transport system will bring about a dramatic improvement in transport of pilgrims and citizens in the city, said Makkah Mayor Osama Al-Bar.
He said the first phase of the project, costing around SR25.5 billion ($6.8 billion), would begin by the middle of next year. It will be completed in three years.
There will be underground lines in areas surrounding the Grand Mosque until the third ring road, while the lines beyond that region will be built on suspended bridges, he said.
The first phase includes construction of a 30-km line from Um Al-Qura University in Abidiya to Sayeda Aisha Mosque.
The bus service will be integrated with the metro system, Al-Bar said, adding that the speedy bus service would link various parts of the city, covering 60 km with 60 stations.
There will be a local bus service to areas not covered by the metro and speed bus network.
The local buses will cover 65 km between the Grand Mosque and surrounding residential districts.
In addition, there will be feeder bus services for the metro system.
He said the public transport scheme is to be completed in 10 years in three phases. Moreover, as a part of a ten-year modernization plan for the holy city, the railway network will be joined by modern communication technology, green initiatives, and other urban-planning improvements.
Earlier, Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) began planning expansion of the national rail network in 2007 with major rail projects that will directly impact on the way people move within the Kingdom. They include the Al-Harammain High Speed Rail (AHSR).
Jeddah’s role as the gateway to Makkah and Madinah is the primary historic influence that has shaped the main plan.
The AHSR will provide a link between Makkah and Madinah.
This high-speed passenger service connects Jeddah with Makkah and Madinah as well as Raghib and the King Abdullah Economic City.
With two stations planned in Jeddah, one at the King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) and the other in the Al-Sulaimaniya district.
The patterns of population movement in Jeddah and within the wider region will change with the arrival of new railway service.

KSRelief chief urges UN to condemn Iranian violence in Yemen

Updated 20 September 2019

KSRelief chief urges UN to condemn Iranian violence in Yemen

  • Iran-backed Houthi militias had been shelling government-controlled civilian areas in the past five years
  • So far 113 Yemeni civilians have been killed, 1,030 have been injured and 20,357 Saudis have been displaced from border regions

CHICAGO: The head of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) called on the UN to pass a resolution condemning the Iranian government for its support of a wave of violence by the Houthis against civilian targets in Yemen.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah said the violence is having a “significant negative impact” on the people of Yemen and on the humanitarian aid effort led by the Saudi government.

Referring to the recent drone strikes against the Aramco fields in Saudi Arabia that sent a shockwave through the oil industry and spiked oil and gasoline prices around the world, Al-Rabeeah said it was obvious the Houthis are not capable of mounting such high-tech strikes.

“The initial info indicates that the incident is an Iranian-made attack. We feel there is a need for an investigation by the UN,” Al-Rabeeah said. “Iran is behind many attacks against the region. The UN should take action. There should be a resolution against Iran. The involvement of the UN delivers a message.”

Although he said that the attack is still under investigation, he said that “drones are a technology that the Houthis do not have … the technology is beyond the abilities of the Houthis. There must be a country behind it.”

During a press briefing at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, Al-Rabeeah said as many as 20 humanitarian aid workers funded by a coalition of 80 nations led by Saudi Arabia have been injured or targeted.

He said providing humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen faces many challenges, including the targeting of women and the recruitment of children by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias.

“There is a need for the international community to unify and have the political will to fight any violations against humanitarian support,” Al-Rabeeah said.

Despite attacks by the Houthis against civilian and military targets and humanitarian aid workers, Al-Rabeeah said King Salman has made a commitment to ensure that the aid reaches civilians in areas controlled by the Houthis.

He said that the humanitarian effort has been hampered by the Houthi militia’s shelling of government-controlled civilian areas, releasing data showing 66,403 rocket attacks, 264 Scud missiles, and 233 drone assaults “that continues to increase,” such as the drone assault on the Aramco oil fields last week.

So far 113 Yemeni civilians have been killed, 1,030 have been injured and 20,357 Saudis have been displaced from border regions. Damage has been caused to 41 schools, six hospitals, and 20 mosques.

Despite the challenges, Al-Rabeeah said the humanitarian drive will continue until the conflict is brought to an end.

“We do not call for war against the region. Those attacks are not against Saudi Arabia. They are against all of us,” Al-Rabeeah said.