Saudi Arabia: the ‘Largest Rail Project in the World’ faces a ‘race against time’

On Total Rail last year, we wrote about how the Middle East’s biggest rail project is currently taking place in Saudi Arabia. It’s congested capital, Riyadh,  has had to wait almost 40 years before adding to its rail industry, which has meant that it has suddenly been forced to propel itself into action.

And the action isn’t coming lightly, in fact, within four years, over 6, 000 km of tracks have been planned. Their vision of projects include, building a metro for every major city, implementing Middle East’s first high speed rail link, and the region’s premier functioning freight line. Assistant to the metro director, Abdullah Allohaidan, told AFP in an interview;

‘the rail and bus development – whose construction is changing the face of Riyadh – is the largest such project under way in the Middle East, and I think in the world. I think the biggest challenge we are facing is the duration of the project. Usually the duration for those projects is much longer.’

However the increasing population within Riyadh, which is predicted to reach 8.2 million by 2030, up from the current 5.7 million means, as Allohaidan has said, ‘definitely we need a transportation system -ninety per cent of the people here are using cars.’

The project should certainly be respected in its bravery of vision, however it is important to note that there are various challenges it will continue to face. For instance, the difficulty in choosing between private and public funding has massively held things up, which is why the majority of projects have now chosen to opt for private funding in order to push things forward.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia, will have to place a dominant effort on its safety and security in order to convince commuters to choose rail over road. In 2012, a crash on the 60 year old Dammam-Riyadh line, meant that Saudi Railway Organisation received criticism for poor maintenance and unsafe lines.

Written by Katy      19 November 2014    in  Infrastructure, Middle East