Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO) has announced that the Haramain high-speed rail project, a 450km railway line that will link the Saudi holy cities of Mecca and Medina to Jeddah, will start operating by early 2014.

The project will also connect the Landbridge and the north-south line, linking densely populated areas with industrial zones and the new economic cities.

Saudi Transport Minister and SRO chairman of the board of directors, Jabara Al-Seraisry, told Saudi Press Agency that an additional station is expected be built at Abyar Ali in Madinah, after the construction of the five originally planned stations.

The aforementioned stations will be built in Jeddah city, King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh, as well as in Makkah and Madinah.

The construction of the Haramain high-speed railway’s main station in Makkah is expected to cost more than SAR3.2bn ($853.6m).

In October last year, SRO awarded a $9.4bn contract to the AlShoula consortium to deliver the second phase of the project, which involves the construction of railway tracks, electrification and an operational control centre, installation of signalling and telecommunication systems, and supply of 35 Talgo 350 trains.

The consortium, which incorporated two Saudi Arabian and 12 Spanish companies, including Spanish rail operator Renfe, Obrascon Huarte Lain, Talgo, Adif and eight others, will operate and maintain the system for 12 years.

In January this year, Saudi Arabia had entered into an $8.22bn deal with a Spanish consortium for the second phase of the high-speed rail project.

The $1.8bn contract for the first phase was awarded in March 2009 to the Al Rajhi Alliance, which is a consortium of Chinese and Saudi companies called China Railway Engineering and Alstom Transport, repsectively.

The initial phase of the project involves civil works, which includes the construction of bridges, viaducts, retaining walls, subways, shafts, tunnels and embankments.

Track laying, installation of signals, telecommunications, electrification system, operational control centre, rolling stock and maintenance of the project for a period of 12 years, are all included in the final stage of the project.

The Makkah-Madinah line will be part of major rail project, linking Jeddah with Riyadh and Dammam, and after completion the Haramain Railway is expected to carry more than 150,000 passengers each day.