Saudi rail fleet expands as network gears up for high speed link

Out-Law News | 22 Aug 2014 | 3:45 pm | 1 min. read

Four new passenger trains will join the fleet of the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) fleet in November, in preparation for the launch of a new high-speed train link in Saudi Arabia in 2015.

The official Emirates News Agency (Wam) said that the new service, which will run at speeds of up to 180 kilometres per hour, would initially operate between Riyadh and Dammam. Subsequently, the link would connect Dammam to Al-Ahsa and Riyadh to Al-Ahsa.

The trains have been built in Spain by rolling stock manufacturer CAF. According to CAF, each train consists of a diesel electric locomotive which tows five cars and can provide service in extreme weather conditions of up to 55C (131F).

SRO president Mohammed Al-Suwaiket said: “Rail transport is vital to support growth and development in any country. While the Saudi economy is the largest in the Middle East and one of the 25 largest worldwide, the kingdom is experiencing significant development in the railway sector.”

Al-Suwaiket said government-backed initiatives included “major expansion projects to connect the Western Region with the Eastern Region, the Northern with the Central, and to link the holy places as well as the kingdom with the Gulf Cooperation Council states".

Al-Suwaiket told Wam that SRO also remained committed to moving towards privatisation of the company and “opening the door for national and foreign investment to bolster its ability to support national development”.

A railway development master plan has been drawn up by SRO in cooperation with the state-backed German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ).

SRO said: “The development strategy of the national railway network, both for freight and passenger transport, is directly linked to trade and business relations within the Middle Eastern region as well as wider global integration.”

SRO’s strategy foresees a network of 19 individual railway lines, with a total length of around 9,900 kilometres. The lines are at various stages of development. Around 5,500km of track is scheduled to be built up to 2025, followed by a further 3,000km between 2026 and 2033 and the remainder built up to 2040.

According to SRO, the total investment for the development of the railway network by 2040 is estimated at 365 billion Saudi Arabian riyal (SAR) ($97bn).

SOR said it would also build “linkages with neighbouring countries and with international markets to improve the investment climate and to facilitate economic diversification... this includes the alignment to internationally-agreed practices and technical standards”.