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.


Houthis, Iran condemned over new drone attacks on KSA

Updated 26 October 2020

Houthis, Iran condemned over new drone attacks on KSA

  • One civilian injured by shrapnel after Saudi-led coalition intercepts four flying bombs launched from Yemen

JEDDAH: Houthi militias and their Iranian backers were condemned on Sunday after the Saudi-led coalition intercepted four explosive-laden drones in two attacks launched from Yemen targeting the south of the Kingdom.

Three of the drones were destroyed early on Saturday and a fourth on Sunday. Shrapnel that fell in Sarat Abidah governorate injured a civilian, and damaged five homes and three vehicles, said civil defense spokesman Capt. Mohammed Abdu Al-Sayed.

Iran was increasing its support to the Houthis to undermine efforts for peace, Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, the political analyst and international relations scholar, told Arab News.

“They want the Houthis to sabotage all they can in Saudi Arabia, regardless of whether their target is a populated area, oil facilities or even a sacred place. This adds tension to the area, and that is what Iran is working on.”

Iranians want the Houthis to sabotage all they can in Saudi Arabia, regardless of whether their target is a populated area, oil facilities or even a sacred place. This adds tension to the area, and that is what Iran is working on.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, political analyst and international relations scholar

Al-Shehri said the situation in Yemen would remain the same unless the legitimate government was returned to Yemen, Security Council Resolution 2216 was put into practice and the Houthi militia were removed.

“Without these things, the Yemen crisis will not end and the whole region will remain in tension.”

The Houthis did not differentiate between military sites and civilian locations, he said.

“Their objective is to damage all places they can reach in Saudi Arabia, and their latest attempts to attack a populated area are nothing new.

“They have also targeted airports and some Aramco oil facilities. If the Aramco attack had not been contained, the damage would have affected the whole Eastern region. They have also attempted to target Makkah, where pilgrims and worshippers were performing their rituals.

“They don’t care. If you look back at what the Revolutionary Guards did at the Grand Mosque, you will realize it is not strange that the Houthis are trying to destroy everything in Saudi Arabia. The strange thing is the silence of the world toward what is happening.”