Nearly a quarter of a new high-speed railway line designed to ease travel for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia has been built, a senior official has said.
Dr Jubarah bin Eid Al-Suraiseri, Minister of Transport, said 100km of track had been laid in the Haramain rail project which will link the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
The railway line, which will run for a total of 450km, is slated for completion in 2014.
He said trains using the Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah line would reach speeds exceeding 300km per hour and would cut travel time between the two holy cities to just two hours.
Initially the Haramain railway is expected to carry more than 3 million passengers annually.
Last October, the SRO awarded a 6.74bn euro ($9.4bn) contract for the second phase of the Haramain project to the public-private Saudi-Spanish Al-Shoula consortium.
The minister said in comments published by Saudi Press Agency that the rail project was part of a number of infrastructure projects which aim to improve access to the holy cities.
He said work was currently ongoin on the construction of several ring roads in Makkah, adding that cost of the project would be SR2bn