The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has opened a 450km high-speed rail link between Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam.
The $6.7bn Haramain railway will travel via the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport, and King Abdullah Economic City, with a full journey taking 55 minutes.
The railway’s 35 trains will travel at speeds of up to 300km/h and can accommodate 60 million passengers annually.
Eight daily services will run on the line, increasing to 12 in 2019.
State firm Saudi Railway Organisation will operate the railway, with construction work undertaken by two consortiums containing international companies including Bouygues of France, China Railway Construction Corporation and ObrascÃ³n Huarte Lain of Spain.
The Guardian quotes Nabil al-Amoudi, Saudi Arabia’s transport minister as saying: "The journey between the Haramain (two holy mosques) is now shorter and easier than at any time before. The project highlights the kingdom’s commitment to serving Islam and Muslims."
Previously, the only way to travel between Mecca and Medina was by road, a journey that took six hours.
The line aims to decrease congestion during the pilgrimages of the Hajj and the Umra.
Construction on the Haramain railway began in March 2009, with the railway originally due to be operational in 2012.Â
Image: The Talgo 350 train which will run on the railway (Wikimedia Commons/ FlyAkwa)