On January 20 the Riyadh-based Arab Daily newspaper quoted the Mayor of Mecca and chair of the executive committee of the city's public transport company Dr Osama Al-Barr as saying that 15 national and international consortia had submitted documents to qualify for contracts on the Riyals 25.5bn ($US 6.8bn) project.

The first line will be 11km long with seven stations and will be mostly underground. It will run from the Jamrat region in Mina west via the northern side of the Grand Mosque, King Abdul Aziz Road, and the Haramain high-speed station in Rusaifa to the Mecca-Jeddah Expressway.

The second line will be partially underground and will be 33km long with 15 stations. It will start in Madinah Road north of Taneem Mosque, then run south along the western side of the Grand Mosque, and via King Abdulaziz Towers, Azizia Street and Taif-Karr Road to Umm Al-Qura University.

Mr Saad Al-Qadi, CEO of Mecca Trains Company, said that civil works will be divided into two packages covering underground and elevated sections.

Construction is expected to begin in the middle of this year and will take around three years to complete. The two lines are part of a longer-term plan to construct four lines totalling 114km with 62 stations.

Mecca's first line, the 18km Al-Mashaaer Al-Mugadassah metro, opened in 2010 and links the pilgrimage sites of Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat.