One of the major international projects ever undertaken
by Spanish enterprise, the High-Speed Train (AVE) between Medina and Mecca in
Saudi Arabia, began its regular passenger service on Thursday 11 October 2018,
only a year and a half behind schedule.

Originally, Granada expected to be
connected to the Spanish high-speed rail network in 2007, the same year as
Malaga. In fact, since April 2015, when the train service between Granada and
Antequera was “temporarily” interrupted while essential work on the AVE rail link
was being carried out, there have been no trains at all to Madrid, Barcelona,
or Seville.

The very first journey on the Saudi
Arabian AVE was actually made on 25 September, but only the King and a few
other Saudi VIPs were on it. But Thursday’s trip was open to all pilgrims and
travellers who could afford the luxury. There were very few empty seats. (In spite of the apparrent evidence of the picture above.)

Since April 2015, passengers have had
to be bussed the 100 kilometres between Granada and Antequera, where they can
connect to the national and AVE rail network. (Pictured below is the new 14.00 connection to Barcelona.) Work on the line itself is
finished, they say. Testing began in December 2017 and training in May 2018. In
the meantime “complementary tasks”, including the complete enclosure of the line and anti-erosion work, are still being carried out.

In all, a total of 35 trains capable
of speeds up to 300kph will cover the 450 kilometres between the two Saudi
cities in two hours. However, the service will not be fully operational until
September 2019, when there will be 12 daily departures, seven days a week.

No date has been set for the start of
the high-speed train service into or out of Granada. Although the Government initially promised to issue monthly progress
reports, they have stopped doing so, and they have repeatedly refused to make any
concrete commitment to a specific time frame for the completion of the project.
In the meantime, RENFE, the national rail company, has extended its contracts
with the bus replacement companies to February 2019.

Saudi Arabia Source: BANDAR ALDANDANI AFP, El País, 10 October 2018