Wednesday, February 11, 2009

China to build a new hajj-railway in Saudi Arabia

Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, is in Riyadh on a three-day tour. He announced ,a deal to build a 230mph rail link between Mecca and Medina, to will cut the 4-hour car journey between Mekka and Medina to just half an hour. The train will help alleviate congestion during the Hajj.

"This train will be able to rapidly evacuate the crowd at the peak of the Hajj," said Yang Honglin, the Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, adding that the line will have a maximum capacity of five million people a year. The railway will be built by China Railway Construction Corporation, together with a Saudia Arabian company and an unnamed French firm. The deal is said to be worth £1.2 billion and should be completed by 2013.

It is the first time that the two countries have signed a major public works agreement, although Huawei, the giant Chinese telecommunications company, is already the largest supplier of communications during the Hajj. The main focus of Mr Hu's trip is likely to be oil supplies to the world's most populous nation. "Saudi Arabia is the biggest oil exporter to China. We value the role it plays and look forward to strengthening cooperation in this field," said the Chinese foreign ministry.

Trade between the two countries has doubled since 2005 and rose 65 per cent last year to Pounds28.7 billion. Sinopec, the Chinese state-owned oil company, is negotiating a deal with Saudi Aramco to build two refineries in Saudi Arabia. Chinese officials said there are now 62 Chinese companies working in the kingdom, employing over 15,000 Chinese workers.

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