Makkah-Madinah high-speed rail link to open in March 2018

When it is finished, the rail link will be able to move 166,000 passengers per day.
Updated 19 November 2016

Makkah-Madinah high-speed rail link to open in March 2018

MADRID: A delayed high-speed railway linking Makkah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia will finally open in March 2018, the Spanish consortium building the project said Friday.
 
The railway linking Islam’s holiest cities was initially scheduled to open at the end of the year but the date for its completion was moved to the end of 2017.
 
Now, according to a spokesman for the Al-Shoula consortium, “full operations will start in March 2018.” Partial operations will begin a few months earlier, in December, he added.
 
Saudi Arabia in 2011 awarded the contract worth 6.7 billion euros ($7.1 billion) to the consortium of 12 Spanish companies and two Saudi firms for the project which aims to improve transport between the two cities during the annual Haj pilgrimage.
 
According to the spokesman, Saudi authorities agreed to pay an extra SR600 million (150 million euros; $160 million) to compensate additional costs of the project.
 
The contract — one of the biggest Spanish firms have ever undertaken abroad — is for the laying of the 444 km of track between Makkah and Madinah, providing 35 trains and maintaining the line for 12 years.
 
When it is finished, the rail link will be able to move 166,000 passengers per day.
But the project has run into challenges that have added to its costs, leading to disagreements among members of the consortium over who is responsible for resolving them.
 
The rail line crosses the Arabian Desert, where sandstorms are frequent and large dunes can suddenly form, which has added to the difficulties in completing the project.
 
The leading firms in the consortium — Spain’s rail company Renfe, train maker Talgo, and state track operator Adif — have extensive experience with Spain’s own high-speed network, the world’s second largest after China’s.


Lufthansa accepts tweaked demands by Brussels over state bailout

Updated 30 May 2020

Lufthansa accepts tweaked demands by Brussels over state bailout

  • Lufthansa and the rest of the airline sector have been hard hit by what is expected to be a protracted travel slump

BERLIN/FRANKFURT: Lufthansa’s management board has accepted a more favorable set of demands from the European Commission in exchange for approval of a $10 billion government bailout, the carrier said on Saturday, paving the way for its rescue.
The agreement comes after the airline’s supervisory board on Wednesday rejected an initial deal with Brussels including conditions that were significantly more painful.
Lufthansa and the rest of the airline sector have been hard hit by what is expected to be a protracted travel slump due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the latest agreement, Lufthansa said it will be obliged to transfer up to 24 takeoff and landing slots for up to four aircraft to one rival each at the Frankfurt and Munich airports.
This translates into three take-off and three landing rights per aircraft and day, it said, confirming what sources had earlier told Reuters.
“For one-and-a-half years, this option is only available to new competitors at the Frankfurt and Munich airports,” Lufthansa said, initially excluding budget carrier Ryanair. “If no new competitor makes use of this option, it will be extended to existing competitors at the respective airports.”
The previous deal had included forfeiting 72 slots used by 12 of 300 jets based at the Frankfurt and Munich airports, a source familiar with the matter said.
The slots, to be allocated in a bidding process, can be taken over only by a European peer that has not received any substantial state aid during the pandemic, Lufthansa said.
The Commission said once it has been officially notified by Germany on the aid package it will assess the issue as a matter of priority.
“(Lufthansa’s remedies will) enable a viable entry or expansion of activities by other airlines at these airports to the benefit of consumers and effective competition,” it said in a statement.
The airline’s supervisory board needs to approve the deal, Lufthansa said, adding it would convene an extraordinary general meeting to obtain shareholder approval for the bailout.
The largest German corporate rescue since the coronavirus crisis struck will see the government get a 20 percent stake in Lufthansa, which could rise to 25 percent plus one share in the event of a takeover attempt. A deal would also give the government two seats on Lufthansa’s supervisory board.
Rivals such as Franco-Dutch group Air France-KLM and US carriers American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are all seeking state aid due to the economic effects of the pandemic.
Germany, which has set up a $110 billion fund to take stakes in companies hit by the pandemic, said it plans to sell the Lufthansa stake by the end of 2023.
“The German government, Lufthansa and the European Commission have reached an important intermediate step in the aid negotiations,” the Economy Ministry said in a statement.
It said talks with the Commission over state aid would continue.