x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

King Salman launches five projects at Grand Mosque in Mecca

The third phase of the expansion of Mecca’s Grand Mosque would accommodate more than 1.6 million worshippers when finished. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters
The third phase of the expansion of Mecca’s Grand Mosque would accommodate more than 1.6 million worshippers when finished. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz has launched five projects as part of the third phase of the expansion of Mecca’s Grand Mosque to accommodate more than 1.6 million worshippers.

The work includes the expansion of the building, squares, tunnels, services buildings and a ring road.

According to the official Saudi Press Agency, the expansion of the building covers 1.47 million square metres and includes 78 new gates at ground level surrounding the expanded building.

The finance minister Ibrahimbin Abdulaziz Al Assaf said the extension creates six new floors for praying and adds 680 escalators and 24 elevators for people with special needs and 21,000 toilets and places of ablution.

The project to expand Mecca’s Grand Mosque was launched in 2011 by the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.

The project has an estimated construction cost of US$26.6 billion and is being carried out by the Saudi Binladin Group.

The Saudi government is said to have paid a further $35.5bn in compensation to landowners to make way for the projects.

The Spanish construction company Isolux Corsan last week said its consortium had been named as preferred bidder for a $2.6bn, two-line metro system that will link to the existing Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah line that was built in 2010 to ferry pilgrims between religious sites. Isolux Corsan said it would require 3,500 staff to work on the project.

A new $9.3bn Haramain High-Speed Rail network will run between the holy cities of Mecca and Medina through King Abdullah Economic City and a $7.2bn passenger terminal at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, which was scheduled for completion last ear. The Haramain High Speed rail line is also delayed.

A new survey by TechSci Research into the market for construction equipment in Saudi Arabia suggests the rental market is set to grow at an average rate of 12 per cent a year between now and 2020 because of ongoing projects.

“Cranes, followed by excavators, dominate Saudi Arabia’s construction equipment rental market,” said the TechSci research director Karan Chechi.

However, in its most recent economic monitor, Samba Financial Group said there were signs of a slowdown in activity as the government slowed investment because of lower oil prices.

It said capital spending was likely to be contained this year and next before increasing again through 2020 as oil prices began a more sustained recovery.

New Saudi Arabia Monetary Agency rules on concentration risk could affect financing for larger firms, as no bank can lend more than 15 per cent of its equity to a single company or group. Previously, the limit had been 25 per cent.

mfahy@thenational.ae

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