China-built light rail whisks 1 mln Hajj pilgrims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia

DATE:2010-11-20 AUTHOR:Deng Shasha SOURCE:Xinhua

BEIJING, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Mecca Metro in Saudi Arabia has carried more than 1 million pilgrims during the Hajj pilgrimage, builder of the line China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC) said Saturday.

During the five-days of activity, the metro ran more than 700 times, CRCC, which will also run the line for three years, said.

The Mecca Metro, the first dual-track light railway in Saudi Arabia, began operating on Nov. 13, 2010 to ease congestion during pilgrims' visits to Mecca.

The 18-kilometer-long line with nine stations links Mecca and the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah. It can carry up to 72,000 passengers in one hour.

The project is expected to operate at 35 percent capacity in the first phase and reach full capacity by May 2011. But it operated at over 50 percent capacity when it began operation.

The 1.8-billion-U.S.-dollar line was the first cooperation project between China and Saudi Arabia after the two countries signed an agreement in June 2008 to enhance cooperation in infrastructure construction.

The line was the first light rail system built by Chinese companies in the Middle East.