Railways setting the track for Saudi Arabia’s transformation
In an interview for Global Railway Review, Dr Bashar Al Malik, CEO of the Saudi Railway Company (SAR), explains how the operator has embarked on an ambitious network development programme that will transform the country’s public transport and be a key enabler of economic diversification.
YOU CAN still see the remnants of Saudi Arabia’s first railway. Several abandoned locomotives and numerous ruined stations mark the line of the former Hejaz Railway, which was meant to link Damascus to the holy city of Makkah.
Funded by popular subscription by Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II, it only ever reached Madinah, approximately 400km short of its intended goal. The railway operated for just eight years before Lawrence of Arabia and his guerrilla forces brought it to a halt in 1917.
100 years on and a Saudi train finally reached Makkah: The successful trial run of the new Saudi Railway Company (SAR) Haramain high-speed train connected the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah. Once fully operational, the service will carry around 60 million passengers a year, many of them visiting Saudi Arabia on the Hajj pilgrimage, on a fleet of 35 modern trains built by Spanish manufacturers.
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