Haramain high speed line.

SAUDI ARABIA: The planned launch in March of commercial services on the Haramain high speed line between Makkah and Madinah is in doubt following further delays in completing three of the line’s five stations.

Announcing on January 30 that he would be visiting Saudi Arabia in the near future to agree a timescale for the start of commercial operations over the 450 km line, Spanish Minister of Development Íñigo de la Serna said that test trains had been running over the whole route since December 31, when an inaugural special ran between Madinah and Makkah in 2 h 52 min.

Operation of the line will be the responsibility of Spanish national operator RENFE as a member of the Saudi-Spanish Al Shoula consortium which was chosen for the €6·7bn railway systems contract in October 2011. De la Serna made it clear that the consortium was trying to fulfil its commitments, but that these depended on resolution of issues that were not its responsibility.

Construction of the stations is largely in the hands of local companies Saudi Bin Laden Group and Saudi Oger; those at Jeddah, Makkah and Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport are understood to be behind schedule.