A shuttle train runs on the elevated light rail in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday. The Mecca Metro, built and operated by China Railway Construction Corp, proved a huge success during the recently concluded annual hajj pilgrimage that saw nearly 2 million visitors this year. (Han Xiaolin/For China Daily)
Millions of pilgrims shuttled in cool comfort between holy sites during the recently concluded annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, thanks to a light rail service built and operated by China.
The Mecca Metro, also known as the Makkah Metro, which was built and run by State-owned China Railway Construction Corp, ferried pilgrims between holy sites, helping ease road traffic congestion during the annual event and winning widespread praise.
According to CRCC, the service ran around the clock during hajj, handling 2.15 million passenger trips during the weeklong pilgrimage. Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Statistics said that more than 1.8 million pilgrims participated in hajj this year.
This year's Mecca Metro service, which began at 4 am on June 25 and ended at 6 pm on Saturday, made 2,208 trips, covering more than 50,000 kilometers. The 18.25-km rail line has nine stations, connecting three holy sites related to the annual pilgrimage.
Local temperatures reached 47 C last week and the rail service offered pilgrims a cool and pleasant experience.
Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, Saudi Arabia's minister of transport, took a ride on the rail line on Wednesday and greeted CRCC's operations team.
"I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to you for your outstanding efforts in transporting passengers on schedule," he said, adding that the professionalism and close cooperation of all parties involved in the service were commendable.
"I thank the Chinese operation team for the excellent service provided to us," said Ahmed Navaid, a pilgrim from Pakistan.
The Mecca light rail operated at full capacity for the first time this year since 2019, following COVID-19 disruptions.
During the peak time, which lasted 5 hours and 23 minutes on Tuesday night, 297,000 passenger trips were made, a year-on-year increase of 29 percent.
The Mecca Metro line began operations on Nov 14, 2010. It is the first light rail built by a Chinese company in the Middle East and the first such service in Saudi Arabia.
Since 2010, CRCC has operated the pilgrimage transportation service nine times, and the number of trips made by passengers using the services has exceeded 22 million.