Hajj Pilgrims Get Help Traveling Green
The new Makkah Metro is the first light-rail train designed to transport the 2.5 million Muslims per year who make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The $2 billion transit project, which aims to reduce the 4,000 buses that typically make the trip, could eventually move 800,000 people between holy sites over a 10-hour period.
The project, which is being built by the China Railway Construction Company, is already up and running, though much of its network has yet to be developed. At the controls are 100 Egyptian conductors. Those without Hajj permits are turned away, and men and women travel in separate cars.
As is the case with much in the Middle East, there's contention on several fronts. MonoMetro, a British company, claims that the original plans it developed for the railway were used even after its negotiations with the Saudi government broke down. And there are concerns about terrorist attacks; though Al Qaeda says it's not interested, security still needs to be high. Add to all this that last month, 16 of the Chinese rail workers were deported for instigating a violent riot over their wages.
Still, the Saudi government plans to make the Makkah Metro merely the first part of a five-line network.