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15 November 2010

Makkah Metro : The Journey of Hajj goes green

A high speed train to Makkah in Saudi Arabia will cut down on carbon emissions during hajj this year, but its reach is limited for now.

Every year, around three million Muslims from across the world prepare for the spiritual journey of a lifetime. Many will have been saving up for the trip for years and will be prepared to travel thousands of miles to reach their destination :  Makkah in Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj.

As one of the five pillars of Islam, every Muslim who has the financial and physical ability is encouraged to make the pilgrimage to Makkah which is Islam’s most holy site. The question is can this pilgrimage, which in this Modern Age leaves behind trail of waste and carbon emissions, really be transformed into something more green.

The UN-backed Muslim Seven Year Plan which announced plans to encourage Muslims to be more environmentally friendly. This year for the first time ever, pilgrims will be able to reduce their carbon footprint during hajj by travelling between Makkah’s holy sites via a very green form of public transport- the train.
From this November 2010, the high speed train will be able to transport 130,000 passengers between the holy sites which will help reduce the number of vehicles on the roads and make hajj journeys more eco-friendly.

The Makkah Metro, officially known as the Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro is an 18.1 kilometres (11.2 mi) long elevated metro under construction in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia for opening in November 2010. It is also known as the Makkah Metro, and is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a 'monorail'.

The Makkah Metro, as its been dubbed, is only in the first stages and is operating at 33 percent of its total capacity. It will be fully operational by hajj season 2011 and will carry around 500,000 passengers by then at the rate of 72,000 passengers an hour in a single direction. By the final stage in 2012 the metro, which has elevated tracks to avoid busy roads, will be able to transport up to two million people. This rail network is expected to reduce traffic by approximately 30,000 cars - so not only will it reduce congestion but it will also cut the noxious emissions which cars release. The introduction of the train network is clearly an important step towards making hajj more environmentally friendly.

It has been announced that Muslims wishing to use Makkah's first metro when they converge on the holy city next month for their annual pilgrimage will have to pay SR250 for a ticket that will serve them for seven days. Three different types of tickets will cover all holy sites in Makkah and will allow the pilgrims to take the train into the city to perform their rites before returning to their residence inside or outside the city, Ajel online newspaper said, quoting Habib Zain Alabidin, Undersecretary at the Saudi Ministry of Municipal affairs.

"The ticket's price is set at SR250 (US$ 67) that will cover a full trip into and out of Makkah for seven days... another ticket is priced at SR100 (US$ 27) for four days," he said.
Officials said last week the train has a capacity to transport 170,000 passengers in its first stage and two million when the third and final phase is completed.

Saudi Arabia has allocated nearly SR6.7 billion (US$ 1.8 billion) for the metro, which begins continuous service next month for the first time in Makkah's history. Officials expect the project to largely contribute to easing road congestions caused by the accumulation of thousands of cars near Makkah. Habib Zain Alabidin says the railway would operate throughout the year.

China Railway Construction Corp, part of a Saudi-French-Chinese consortium which won the contract, is carrying out the project, involving nearly 5,000 workers. The train is the Gulf’s second metro system after the Dubai Metro.
"Allah hath promised to Believers, men and women, gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss. But the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of Allah: that is the supreme felicity." [The Holy Quran, Surah Al Tawbah 9:72]

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