Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro Project, Saudi Arabia



The Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro Line project in Makkah (Mecca) involves the construction of a 20km-long metro line that will connect the holy cities of Mecca, Arafat, Muzdalifa and Mina.

Metro Line project in Makkah (Mecca)
Metro Line project in Makkah (Mecca)

A contract worth $1.8bn for the project was awarded by the Saudi Arabian government in February 2009 to a consortium of companies led by China Railway Construction (CRCC). CRCC will carry out construction of the infrastructure and will integrate various systems of the project.

The Mecca monorail project is one of the many projects being undertaken by Saudi Arabia to expand its railway network to meet the transportation needs of its growing population of 25 million and improve an antiquated logistics infrastructure.

The project will help transport about 3.5 million people who arrive at Mecca annually to perform Hajj. The number is expected to increase to five million in future.

The project

Construction of the monorail project will help solve the problem of heavy traffic congestion in the holy cities during the Hajj period and also help in meeting the transportation needs of the people in Saudi Arabia. Masterplans drawn up by MonoMetro show that five monorails need to be constructed to handle the flow of pilgrims to the holy cities.

Based on the need to transport pilgrims from Mina to Arafat a four-line parallel loop network was developed. The project will help transport about 500,000 pilgrims in six to eight hours. It will also help retire about 25,000 buses from about 70,000 fleet used to transport pilgrims.

The first phase of the project includes the four-line loop with a network of pick-up and drop-off stations between Mina and Arafat. The first of the five new metro lines is expected to start operating with Automatic Train Protection at 35% capacity by November 2010.

By mid-2011, the line will run without a driver but with an attendant on board. The metro will reach full capacity to carry 72,000 passengers/direction/hour by 2011’s Hajj. About 8,000 skilled and unskilled workers, along with 5,000 engineers, are engaged in the project.

The project will service each of the three main cities of Mina, Arafat and Muzdafila with three substations each. The four-line parallel loop network splits into single tracks covering all the encampment zones in Mina. Mina will be the last station for the metro line and will be located towards the west of the Jamarat Bridge. The metro line will be linked to all the four floors of the bridge with elevators.

The four-line parallel route moves south towards Arafat before reaching a main station next to the Arafat Mosque and splitting again into a single-line network to carry pilgrims into Arafat. The lines come together again and move towards Muzdelefa where pilgrims will spend ceremonial time before returning to Mina.

The line will run on a viaduct with the depot located at the end of the trail that is behind the first station in Arafat. A turnaround loop is planned between the last station and the depot.


The trains of the monorail will operate at an elevation ranging from 8m to 10m so that they do not obstruct the movement of vehicles and pedestrians on the ground.

The trains will comprise 12 carriages, each 20m long and 3m wide. The monorail will run on a powerful superstructure made of steel railroads supported by solid concrete pillars made of prefabricated steel masts and beams.

The design of the superstructure is auto-responsive to the forces of acceleration and emergency braking, with columns and specialised beamways that act as a kinetic energy absorbing/redistribution network, as well as the modular elevated station kit.

Controlled access to the monorail is planned to prevent accidents such as the tragedy at Mina in 2006, when more than 350 people died in a stampede. Trains on four elevated tracks will transport 20,000 pilgrims per hour in an orderly manner. The project will also include the construction of multi-storey parking facilities at the entrance of Mecca to help pilgrims park their cars before boarding the trains.

Rolling stock

The rolling stock for the monorail will include five-car sets running together as ten-car sets supplied by MonoMetro, UK. Each five-car set is entirely interconnected and air-conditioned with separate areas for men and women.

Each five-car set has a central emergency escape car with inflatable chutes to enable pilgrims to escape in case of an emergency. As the tracks form a closed loop each train set will circulate several times between Mina and Arafat. The rolling stock will be stabled throughout the year for cleaning and maintenance at the depot in Arafat.

The technology on which the monorail is based is steel wheels running on steel rails in a vector bifurcation bogie capture configuration. The wheel-rail interface geometry for the monorail was developed by MonoMetro with SKF, the Swedish bearings manufacturer. ESG, the mechanical engineering arm of English Welsh and Scottish Railways, will develop the vector bifurcation bogie sets.

Knorr-Bremse was awarded a $55m contract to provide braking systems for trains and station platform screen doors for nine stations of the metro line.

Signalling and communications

CRCC awarded a $144m contract to Thales in June 2009 to supply, integrate and deploy its driverless train control and telecommunication systems for the project. Thales will design, integrate, install, test and commission the systems. It will install the SelTrac Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) system in the metro project.

Thales will also supply its fully integrated communications solution including an operation control centre, CCTV, SCADA and an automatic address and information system.


Westinghouse Platform Screen Doors will provide the PSDs for the project, Siemens will supply power and Lloyds Register will act as the safety assessor. Systra will carry out the civil work and WS Atkins will be in-charge of electrical and mechanical systems and project management.

Brecknell Willis, a UK supplier of power rails and current collection shoes for railways, will provide a lightweight aluminium power rail with stainless steel contact surface. It will supply 1500v DC and a current draw of 3,000A.

TPI Composites, a US manufacturer of high-strength low-weight composite lightweight vehicles, will manufacture the cars.

UK firm Intelligent Engineering will provide patented elastomeric bonding technology for the butterfly masts, side arms and the consecutive beam junction assembly with viscous damping. The technology will enable cyclical expansion and contraction to sustain heat in the region. It will also provide high resistance to emergency braking force. Buro Happold will be responsible for developing the structural engineering of the MonoMetro superstructure.

The future

Studies are being carried out to ascertain the extension of the monorail to a station close to the Grand Mosque in Mecca and linking it with Jeddah airport and the Haramain Railway that connects the two holy cities of Mecca and Madinah. Similar projects are planned for the city of Madinah in the future.