China Railway Co will build rail link to holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Musdalifah

A Chinese company has won a contract to build a SR6.65bn (£1.2bn) monorail around Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

China Railway Co won the deal to construct the rail link between Mecca and the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, which are visited by pilgrims as well as Mecca during the annual Hajj.

The scheme comprises four elevated tracks which will be able to take up to 20,000 passengers an hour.

The scheme will be done two phases. The first will be finished in time for the 2010 Hajj and will result in monorail with one third of its eventual capacity. Phase two will be done by the Hajj of 2012.

More than two million Muslims make the journey to Mecca each year.

The deal was announced this week by Chinese President Hu Jintao on a visit to Saudi Arabia.