Saudi Arabia has opened a $7.87bn high-speed Haramain Railway to connect the holy cities of Mecca and Medina with Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City.

The newly opened Haramain Railway line spans 450km and is expected to transport 60 million passengers a year.

Furthermore, the line is set to connect to a new terminal at Jeddah airport, which is the main point of entry for Hajj pilgrims.

The terminal has already started service on some domestic routes and is expected to cover other destinations early next year.

Haramain Railway is scheduled to begin commercial operations next week.

“The project highlights the kingdom’s commitment to serving Islam and Muslims.”

Saudi Arabia Transport Minister Nabil al-Amoudi was quoted by Reuters as saying: “The journey between the Haramain (two holy mosques) is now shorter and easier than at any time before.

“The project highlights the kingdom’s commitment to serving Islam and Muslims.”

A consortium of 12 Spanish and two Saudi companies, Al Shoula has developed the Haramain Railway, which is expected to reduce the country’s dependence on oil exports and support the country to diversify its economy.

In addition, the new line is developed to provide fast transportation to pilgrims, as well as locals and foreign visitors.

Haramain Railway could be expanded to cover a proposed east-west train between the capital city of Riyadh and Jeddah in future.

Pilgrims currently account for the majority of Saudi Arabia’s 20 million annual foreign visitors. So far this year, the country has received more than two million Hajj pilgrims, and 6.5 million Umrah pilgrims last year.