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Spanish bullet train to Mecca hits speed of 330km/h in trial run

‘Desert AVE’ passes test despite extreme environmental conditions, but work running behind schedule

The Spanish bullet train that will cover the Mecca-Medina route in Saudi Arabia reached a peak speed of 330km/h in a trial run held on Sunday. The high-speed railway link, a €6.7 billion project, is meant to improve journey times for travelers on the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

The high-speed train that will cover the Mecca–Medina route.
The high-speed train that will cover the Mecca–Medina route. EFE

According to the consortium in charge of the project, the test was conducted between the stations of Kaec and Medina. It surpassed the threshold of 300km/h required for commercial operations once the line is officially launched.

The trial involved a Talgo 350 Haramain train, which has been adapted to the extreme conditions it will face, including hot desert sands. The consortium, which includes Spanish rail infrastructure manager Adif, train builder Talgo and construction companies OHL and FCC, said that it has added 30 technological components to the high-speed trains that will link Islam’s holiest cities.

The project has been plagued by delays that the consortium and Saudi authorities blamed on one another

The AVE trains (for Alta Velocidad Española, or Spanish High Speed) are due to start operating for private trips and for the Saudi royal family by the end of the year, before being opened up to the general public in March 2018.

The Al Shoula Group – made up of 12 Spanish companies and two Saudi firms – said that the train “used the strictest standards of safety and quality, and a highly stringent trial regime.”

A first trial of the so-called “Desert AVE” was conducted on May 18, and a second time on June 14.

Saudi and Spanish officials involved in the AVE project met in Medina on May 9.
Saudi and Spanish officials involved in the AVE project met in Medina on May 9.

So far, around 70% of the 450 kilometers of railway line have been laid down. The project has been plagued by delays that the consortium and Saudi authorities blamed on one another. In December 2014, the kingdom’s newly appointed transportation minister, Abdullah bin Abdulrahman Al-Muqbel, issued a public statement calling on the consortium to speed up work or risk having the contract rescinded. Construction work at the stations of Mecca, King Abdullah Airport and Jeddah are significantly behind schedule.

English version by Susana Urra.

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