Mumbai, Aug. Aug 8 (IANS) Tata Steel will fabricate 60,000 tonnes of high-quality rails for a new high-speed line linking the Muslim holy cities of Makka and Madina in Saudi Arabia, a company official said here Thursday.
The new line, being constructed since 2009 and expected to be operational late next year, will ferry millions of pilgrims on the 444-km journey between the two cities at speeds of 320 km per hour.
"This is a prestigious project which will see the two holy cities being linked by rail for the first time. We are delighted to be contributing to this line which will have to overcome some major challenges across some of the most extreme terrain in the world," said Tata Steel's rail sector chief Gerard Glas.
The steel for the project will be made at Tata Steel's Scunthorpe plant in England before being rolled into rails in lengths of 25 metres at the same plant and also in Hayange in the north of France.
Running across the challenging desert terrain, the railway line will have to withstand temperatures ranging from freezing to 50 degrees Celsius, besides sandstorms, flash floods and shifting dunes.
Constructed at a cost of an estimated Euros 12 billion, the railway will carry around 160,000 passengers daily, and many more during the annual Haj pilgrimage, on a fleet of 35 trains.
Last year, the Saudi Railways Organisation awarded the contract for the final phase of completing, running and maintaining the Haramain High Speed Rail Project to a Spanish consortium of Copasa, Imathia and OHL.
Haramain implies "two holy places" in Arabic, while Makkah is the place where the Holy Quran was revealed and Madina is the birthplace of Prophet Mohammed.
En route, the trains will halt at Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City.
Tata Steel has already implemented similar projects in Brazil and Mauritania.