The Mecca network will link up two holy sites in the city and is expected to involve an elevated system similar to the one under construction in Dubai.

According to Riyadh-based consultant Samir Ashour, resident manager of Lebanese engineering group Khatib & Alami, which is involved in the study, the principle issue will be how to ensure the movement of the millions of people who will use the system during the Haj. “The challenge will be the number of passengers who will be using the system,” adds Ashour. “We are studying how to manage so many people.”

The feasibility study for the GCC railway, launched in September 2007 and originally expected to take 12-18 months, will be finalised by October, says Ashour.