SAUDI ARABIA: August 31 has been suggested as the new target date for the start of commercial services on the Haramain high speed line between Makkah and Madinah. Opening had previously been expected in mid-March, but it became clear in February that delays to the completion of five of the line’s three stations would force postponement.

Negotiations have continued between authorities in Saudi Arabia and the Al-Shoula Consortium responsible for the €6·7bn railway systems contract to try and agree when the 450 km railway would be ready to start commercial operations. SAR Chief Executive Dr Bashar AlMalik told Railway Gazette in April that he was hopeful that services could begin ‘within the next few weeks’. This leaves open the possibility of commercial operations commencing before this year’s Hajj pilgrimage starting on August 19.

Spanish media have reported that the Saudi authorities may be willing to accept a further delay on the firm understanding that the railway is up and running no later than the end of this year. The August 31 date was leaked to El Independiente but has not been officially confirmed. The digital publication also reported that the Al-Shoula consortium may be dissolved and replaced by a new entity responsible for operations and maintenance that would include Spanish national operator RENFE and infrastructure manager ADIF.