MAKKAH, Sept 21 (Malaysiaaktif) — After hundreds of hours of train testing, test cases and simulation runs, and loads of tireless work and energy in preparation since May, Prasarana Malaysia Berhad (Prasarana) officially rolls out the Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Makkah Metro Southern Line (MMMSL) for the 2015 haj season on the wee hours of 21 September; putting on show to the international stage of Malaysia’s capabilities in operating the world’s most challenging rail system.
As early as 2.30am on the 7th day of Zulhijjah of the Muslim’s calendar, the first of the 12-car trains left the depot in Arafat to commence operations at Arafat 1 station to head north towards Jamarat in the Holy City of Makkah for normal metro operations of stopping at each of the nine stations.
“Officially, service starts at 4am; but we need to arrange the trains accordingly. Hence, the early start at the depot. For the first day, we will be using six trains under Movement A. Six will be sufficient as based on experience, the crowd heading for Arafah for Hari Wukuf grows gradually,” said MMMSL Director of Operations, Haji Muhammad Burhanordin Ismail.
Providing connectivity between Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina, some 370,000 piligrims are expected to travel daily on the 18.1-km alignment; which effectively takes out no less than 53,000 buses from the service and effectively, easing out traffic conditions within the Holy City.
Some 400 Malaysian rail experts are leading a 7,400-strong operation to provide hassle-free rail services for Muslims to perform their Hajj with pilgrims from Middle East, North Africa and South Asia having the privilege of using the service in view of the location of their tents near the stations.
Prasarana was awarded the contract to operate and maintain the MMML in May this year; commencing work in the following month after formalization of the handing over from the China Railway Construction Consortium (CRCC), who was the previous operator since the inauguration of the service in 2010.
A system which operates with five different mode of movements in sync with holy acts for Haj, the first two days of operations on Zulhijjah 7 and 8 of the Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Makkah Metro will observe Movement A, which stops at Arafat 1, Arafat 2, Arafat 3, Muzdalifah 1, Muzdalifah 2, Muzdalifah 3, Mina 1, Mina 2 and Mina 3.
“Movement A will run continuously for 34 hours until 7pm of 8 Zulhijjah before we commence Movement B from 8pm to 10am for the critical movement of pilgrims to Arafah. Movement B will be a direct shuttle service with the trains taking pilgrims from the three stations in Mina to the 3 stations in Arafah,” said MMML Director of Operations, Haji Muhammad Burhanordin.
Trains services will then stop for just over eight hours before commencing into operations at 18.18pm for Movement C, which for another round of shuttle service format from the three Arafah stations to the three Muzdalifah stations.
“Movement C will be the greatest challenge. After wukuf, everybody will be leaving Arafah to ‘mabit’ in Muzdalifah. We will be putting 12 trains to cover Movement C, which will run for just over three hours and 42 minutes until 10pm; before we start Movement D from 11.30pm until 8.30am on the following day to ferry pilgrims to Mina for their stoning the devil holy act at Jamarat,” he added.
Train services from Zulhijjah 10 to 13 will follow Movement E, which stops at selected stations at Mina 1 and 2, Muzdalifah 3, Arafat 3 and Mina 3.
“We will officially close operations for this year at 6pm, on 13th of Zulhijjah or on Sunday, September 27 and start making preparations for next year’s Hajj season,” he said, adding that all movements of the trains would be planned and orchestrated by a highly alert team at the Operation Control Centre (OCC) at the Depot.
“The OCC will not just monitor movement of the trains; but also activities at the station especially around the platform area. We occasionally send out instructions to our people at the stations in managing the crowd situation.
As the Director of Operations, Burhanordin, who had served the previous contractor, is also responsible for the smooth running of the nine stations, in which the biggest challenge would be in managing the massive crowd.
“We are looking at some 370,000 passengers at the stations and they will converge together at particular stations at one time. On Wukuf Day, everybody will be at the Arafah stations. They will then move together to Muzdalifah and Mina.
“It’s always a massive challenge managing the crowd. Not just because of the numbers and the language barrier, but also the fact that many of the pilgrims are elderly people and quite a number will be using the metro service for the first time. I am truly indebted to our team of trainers in equipping the staff for this assignment. Based on our simulation exercises, they are up for the task.
“Prasarana did not have the luxury of time when this project was handed over to us. But, the entire team put in the extra hours in everything we do to take us where we are now. It has been a big challenge; but so far, we have responded well.
“Insyaallah, we will deliver the best service in the history of the Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Makkah Metro this year,” added Burhanordin.