Saudi Railways Organisation has completed the first test run of its long-awaited Haramain high-speed rail line to a newly-built station at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.
The company posted a video on Twitter on Tuesday evening of the first train arriving in Jeddah. A spokesman confirmed that the test run had been completed, but said he did not have any more details on the matter.
The Haramain high-speed rail line is a 450km network connecting the kingdom’s two holy cities of Mecca and Medina via stations at the redeveloped airport in Jeddah and at King Abdullah Economic City, near Rabigh. It has been designed to reach speeds of up to 360kph.
Designs for the project were completed in 2009 and contracts worth €6.7 billion (Dh28.4bn) were signed in 2011 with the Saudi-Spanish consortium that has built it. Initially, work was meant to be completed under a three-year, fast-track contract but it has subsequently faced a number of delays.
However, last November the Spanish government's minister for public works, Inigo de la Segna, said a new deal had been agreed that would move the project back on track. It is now expected to be completed this year.
The consortium delivering the Haramain project includes several Spanish firms such as the state-owned high speed rail operator Renfe, the consultants Consultrans, the construction company Obrascon Huarte Lain and the rolling stock provider Talgo. Saudi Arabia’s investment company Al Shoula is also a partner, alongside the local contracting company Al Rosan.
Talgo said last month one of its T350 trains had reached a top speed of 310kph on a section of the tracks between King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) and Medina. A final test is due during which it will attempt a speed of 330kph.
Talgo is providing 35 trains capable of carrying more than 400 passengers each and which are currently undergoing extreme weather testing to ensure they can withstand temperatures of above 50°, as well as desert sands and dust.
Fahd Al Rasheed, the managing director and group chief executive of KAEC), welcomed the progress being made on the rail project, stating that it has "long been integral" to his city's master plan, making it more accessible to a catchment of 10 million people along the kingdom's west coast.
He said the trains would place KAEC within an hour’s travel of both Mecca and Medina, and it would be just 25 minutes from the upgraded airport in Jeddah.
Mr Al Rasheed said its station “is ready for operation and will act as a key transportation node to drive our commercial and leisure developments”, as well as anchoring the city’s main commercial district.
“The Haramain railway will supercharge KAEC’s growth as a premium residential, commercial and lifestyle destination,” he said.