Dr.Rumaih bin Muhammad Al Rumaih,
CEO of the Saudi Railway Company
(SAR) SAUDI RAILWAY COMPANY
Q. Could you briefly highlight the most relevant achievements of SAR during the last year?
A. Many things have happened since we met last year. In 2011 one of our lines was completed and it is operational now. It consists of two main lines of 2,400 kilometres (kms) that will connect the mines to the manufacturing facilities inRas Al Khair.
Q. That was what we called Ras Az-Zawrlast year, why the change of name?
A. It was namedRas Al Khair, by the King because of the weight and importance of the line for Saudi Arabia. The new name has a relevant meaning in Arabic because it means that we hope to reach our expectations.
Q. And so? What are your expectations with this line?
A. Well, 1,392 kms of the line are completed and operational. Our mineral trains are travelling on a daily basis in this line. Each train can carry up to 12,000 tones of phosphate rock. Our target for 2012 is to transport around 5 million tons.
Also, this year SAR has been expanded into an operation and construction company. Last year it was only a construction company. Now we have the two companies in one.
The construction of the passenger line is also going on. We ordered the manufacture of the passenger train and the passenger stations to a Spanish company and we anticipate that this line will be completed in early 2014 to be operational towards mid 2014. This line is about 1400 plus kilometers as well.
Back in June 2011 there was a Royal Decree from the Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques that entitles SAR to build and operate a new line that will connect Ras Al Khair,with Jubail, one of the largest petrochemical clusters of the world located in the Gulf Sea; and also its inside network and a new line from Jubail to Damman.
The instruction from the King says something about SAR. We talk the talk and we walk the walk. We are delivering on time and expanding from construction to construction and operation. Naturally the company is expanding its human resources as well. We have doubled our workforce from 100 to 200 and at the end of 2012 we expect to reach some 300 employees. Additionally we have the engineering supervision consultant working with us supervising the construction with over 300 people as well.
These are the major achievements that took place this year.
Q. But 2012 also comes loaded for SAR. There are new projects like the land-bridge project Jeddah-Riyadh on the line….
A. Yes, at the end of last year there was a Council of Ministers Resolution that gave the go ahead to the Public Investment Fund (PIF) to build a land bridge on the East-West Jeddah to Riyadh. When all these lines are operational we will have a complete network. The benefits will be shown shortly to the economy of Saudi Arabia.
Last year we also signed a contract to build and maintain over 40 maintenance buildings along our lines. Additionally, we have signed a series of Moue’s with ARAMCO to transport fuel products to the North of Saudi and others with companies inside Jubail to serve their transportation needs. We will transport around 3 million tons of SADARA products, for instance.
Q. What is the advantage of the railway system in Saudi Arabia compared to the other transportation means? Why is it worth the investment?
A. Saudi Arabia is a very big country. The mineral industry would not be able to survive if we didn’t have a railway line between the mines and the manufacturing facilities. There are 5 million tons of phosphate and 5 million tons of bauxite 10 million tons to be transported. This quantity translated to 30,000 tones daily is 1,200 trucks. The roads will not be able to accommodate this traffic. You would need to build another road but still the risk of accidents with people and cargo circulating in the same road would be too high. Our railway is dedicated to cargo, so it is safer. The train is basically a core part of the diversification program of the country.
It will compliment, not replace. It will be built a high-speed train from Jeddah to Damman, called land bridge because it connects the Red Sea to the Gulf. If you go around the peninsula you will need a minimum of ten days by vessel. Only two days by train. So you are saving a lot of time, cost and risk, because you are also avoiding the Somali pirates.
The train will help grow the economy of Saudi Arabia. From minerals to olives. Although when you come here most you see is desert, there is a huge agricultural area in the North of the country that will also take advantage of the railway.
Q. What is SAR long-term goal?
A. To become the operating company in the region. Up to now all the companies created in the GCC are construction companies, Etihad Rail in the Emirates, Q-Rail Qatar, etc. At some point they will need an operator and they will have to bring it from outside. By then we will be ready to be the operator that will serve them. We will have the experience, we are in the region, and we will be very competitive.
Q. According to some analysts, by the year 2017 there will be a railway system for the 36 million inhabitants of the GCC that will cost 60 billion USD. What will this mean for the economy of the region?
A. That figure not only includes connecting the GCC. It also includes a huge metro network in Qatar plus other networks in other countries. We are looking at around 2,000 kilometres of railroad to connect the GCC countries. An estimation of around 14 to 15 billion USD.
Q. What would be your last message for our readers?
A. Since we have a huge project we would like to see you every year and brief you on the project. Once the passenger line is completed it will make us very tangible to the people. We will provide a good option to our passengers so that will seriously consider us.