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Saudi state railway in push to popularize rail travel - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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File photo showing a freight train at a railway station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)

File photo showing a freight train at a railway station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)

Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s state-owned railway company has launched a number of initiatives aiming to make rail travel the most popular mode of transport in the Kingdom, the head of the company told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Head of the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) Khalid Al-Suwaikat said the company was “currently carrying out a plan to make rail the preferred choice for travelers [in the Kingdom], by strengthening its position as the safest mode of transport and improving services on board relating to the comfort of passengers,” such as free Wi–Fi Internet use.

Despite a number of major investments in the Kingdom’s rail network, transport in Saudi Arabia remains predominantly based around the car, with over half a million auto sales expected this year alone.

Suwaikat added: “The SRO will be implementing a number of steps to reach this goal [making rail travel more popular], most prominent of which is launching non-stop routes between Dammam and Riyadh . . . to reduce journey times between both cities from their current four hours and 20 minutes, to just three hours.”

Suwaikat said that SRO trains currently served a total of 1.17 million passengers a year, but the company was aiming to up this number to 1.5 million passengers in 2015.

The company will also be adding to its current fleet of eight trains, with four new trains arriving soon, Suwaikat said, the first before the end of November. The trains will be used for the Dammam–Riyadh and Dammam–Al-Ahsa routes.

As well as new trains, new routes will be added in early 2015 between Riyadh and Al-Kharj, and later between Hofuf and Haradh.

Suwaikat said the SRO was also looking to boost its cargo services. In August 5 the company signed a 391 million Saudi Riyal (104 million US dollar) deal to lay a second parallel 133-mile (214-kilometer) track along the Dammam–Riyadh cargo line. This is being done to increase the route’s operational capacity, in line with rising demand from private sector companies.