The rail system, which the government hopes to have built in time for the next Hajj season, pending approval, will have capacity for up to 90,000 passengers an hour.

The ministry believes a monorail would have the advantage of minimising disruption to the holy cities during construction, with no tunnelling required. The project would complement the Mecca-Medina high-speed rail link which is in its final bid stage, with a contract award expected later in 2008.