How would you maintain your cool in 45 degree heat?
Amidst the economic gloom of Coronavirus and a rising global death toll, it’s always heartening to read positive news from any industry, especially our own.
It gave us real satisfaction to read of the success of Xrail Group Ltd, who have bases in London, Warrington, Abu Dhabi and Jeddah.
If you’ve not heard the news, we’re happy to break it to you. XRAIL Group have been awarded a 7 year maintenance project on the Haramain High Speed Railway in Saudi Arabia. This originally opened to the public in October 2018, as a longer term attempt to reduce congestion on roads and the demands of pilgrims.
"The Haramain project was conceived to address the transportation needs of the growing number of pilgrims visiting Makkah, Umrah performers and the people of the city."
Exponential passenger growth is predicted at a time when all travel has been curtailed and paused due to the pandemic. It is the longest rail system in the Middle East and carries trains operating at over 300 km/h (a heady 186 mph); linking Mecca, Medina, Jeddah, the King Abdullah Economic City, as well as the King Abdulaziz International Airport.
Six maintenance centres will ensure there are no issues.
But what may be the logistical challenges with this project?
Rail technology is relatively new in Saudi Arabia. Whilst many countries have industrial legacies stretching back to the 19th century, the railway infrastructure for transport of passengers and freight was developed after World War Two.
Rise in sweltering temperatures, Source: WRGB
The Saudi Railways Organisation was established even more recently in 1956, if you demand precision.
1. Older rolling stock
For an advanced nation which is the 11th largest country in the world and one of its richest, it may surprise you to learn that the most recent addition of stock, before this project, were eight diesel locomotives, from Spain, in 2012. The new rolling stock, the Spanish Talgo 350, with its speeds and capacities may make the older engines obsolete, longer term.
2. A desert climate
Saudi Arabia has an arid, dry climate characterised by extreme summer temperatures, averaging 45 degrees and very little rainfall. The temperature does drop rapidly at night time. This may present challenges too for construction and maintenance. Heat causes expansion of rails and they can buckle under hot temperatures.
Network Rail uses remote monitoring systems in the UK as an alert for hot rails and lower speed restrictions are introduced, to minimise the chances of buckling.
Perhaps, similar measures will be engendered on the Haramain High Speed Railway.
3. Particular local needs
Serving the Muslim holy cities of Medina and Mecca, 60 million passengers are anticipated each year, with 3 to 4 million being Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.
There are also other interesting facets to this railway line.
- 1 cut-and-cover tunnel
- 46 rail bridges
- 9 wadi bridges (cable-stayed bridges)
- 5 rail underpasses
- 53 vehicular overpasses
- 30 vehicular underpasses
- 12 camel crossings
- 5 stations
- 3 depots