Saudi Arabian King Salman inaugurated a high-speed railway linkage between the two holiest cities of Islam – Mecca and Medina today (September 26) to ease transportation and traffic congestions between the cities where millions of pilgrims visit each year.

Millions of Muslim pilgrims from all over the world visit the Kingdom nation each year for conducting pilgrimage that includes travelling between Mecca and Medina. Covering a total of 450 kilometres run, the Haramain High-Speed Rail System connecting Mecca and Medina via the Red Sea city of Jeddah was flagged by Saudi King Salman today. A total of 35 trains can run on the newly launched rail network and each train will run at average speed of 300 kmph; and will have five stations: Mecca, Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City, King Abdulaziz International Airport and Medina.

Intended to reduce traffic congestions between two of the holiest and most visited cities in Islam, the project was launched by the Saudi government to help out pilgrims and show the kingdom’s commitment in serving the visitors. Till now, Hajj and Umrah pilgrims had to travel by bus for up to six hours but the Haramain rail network will also cut travel time between to just 2 hours. Also, the railway stations in both cities are located nearby the Grand Mosques for ease of inter-city transportation and are designed in a way that they can handle as my as 20,000 passengers per hour.

The government hopes that the Haramain Rail System, developed at a massive cost of $7.87 billion will help at least 60 million pilgrims this year. The rail network was developed in two phases that involved support from Saudi, French, Chinese and Spanish companies. It took a total of six years to complete the largest transport projects in the Middle East, and will become operational and open for all from Monday (October 1).