The railway is the right way
Other components of this prestigious and important development include highspeed trains fitted with state-of-the-art equipment and five futuristic passenger stations; one in Makkah, one in Jeddah, one in King Abdullah Economic City, one at King Abdul Aziz International Airport, and one in Madinah.
There will also be a sixth station built at Abyar Ali in Madinah, after the five originally planned stations are up and running. The construction of the Abyar Ali station was decided upon because of its unique location, for this is where pilgrims heading for Makkah change to the ihram, an obligatory state of dress when performing the rites of Haj and Umrah.
Number of Pilgrims to Increase
This new railway will cut travel time between Makkah and Madinah to two hours and between Jeddah and Makkah to around 30 minutes. Makkah, of course, is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and is considered to be the holiest place in Islam. With a population of approximately 1.7 million, the city attracts nearly 2.5 million Hajj pilgrims each year, as well as more than two million Umrah performers throughout the month of Ramadan and seasonal holidays.
Additionally, there is heavy passenger movement on Fridays along with the usual commercial traffic.
Makkah public transport system is limited to private taxis, although during the Hajj period pilgrims are able to take advantage of a large fleet of buses. The Haramain High Speed Rail project was conceived to tackle the transportation needs of the increasing number of pilgrims visiting Makkah, as well as the city’s residents. The Ministry of Hajj estimates that in the next 25 years the number of pilgrims will increase to in excess of three million, with the number of Umrah performers growing to more than 11 million. With this in mind, a railway was considered to be the best option to provide safe and comfortable travel for the pilgrims and to ease the pressure on the roads connecting Makkah and Madinah.
Meeting the Challenge
The design and construction of the Haramain High Speed Rail project has thrown up many challenges, with the scheme split into two phases. Phase one consists of two packages, with the first taking civil works such as construction of bridges, viaducts, retaining walls, subways, shafts, tunnels and embankments, and the second including the construction of the five passenger stations.
Phase two of the project involves the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the track, installation of signalling and telecommunication systems, deployment of rolling stock, power supply and electric traction.
The design and construction of the project will allow it to endure harsh climatic and heavy traffic conditions. In view of the fact that temperatures in the region range from 0–50°C, the track will be designed to handle the temperature changes.
All stations will have a common planning strategy, but will have an individual and distinctive design and building envelope to characterize the particular cities they serve. The stations will offer a wide assortment of facilities and an exceptional passenger experience. The stations will contain different arrival and departure zones and more than enough circulation space. The public areas of the stations, along with the platforms, will be environmentally controlled to impart comfort and will be illuminated with filtered natural daylight.
In October 2011 it was announced that the Al Shoula Consortium of two Saudi and 12 Spanish companies had won a €6·74bn contract to provide railway systems and rolling stock for the second phase of the Haramain High Speed Rail project. Spain has become a world leader in high-speed rail networks and now has the longest such system in Europe, ahead of France which pioneered the technology.
Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Alassaf and Transportation Minister Jobarah al- Suraisry signed the agreement with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia- Margallo and Public Works Minister Ana Pastor.
The Al-Shoula Consortium is composed by Spain’s state-run Renfe Operadora (26.9% stake), Spain’s network manager Adif (21.5%), Spanish train manufacturer Talgo (17.5%), other Spanish companies (Ineco, OHL, Copasa, Dimetronic, Indra, Abengoa, Ineco, Consultrans, Inabensa and Imathia; 30%), and Arabian companies Al Shoula (7, 00%) and Al Rosan (5, 00%).
In addition, as a member of the Al Shoula consortium, Invensys Rail, the British maker of railway software, will provide the full turn-key signalling and train control systems, including its FUTUR 3000 and FUTUR 2500 Level 2 ERTMS solution and also includes centralised traffic control, electronic interlockings, LED wayside signals, train detection systems and on board ETCS equipment for the 34-strong train fleet. Invensys Rail’s share of the three year construction phase is valued at €298 million (around £260 million). Its share of the 12 year maintenance phase is €185 million (around £160 million).
Trains will travel at a commercial speed of 300 km/h under a 25kV overhead electrification system using Invensys Rail’s Level 2 ERTMS technology for train protection.
Talgo will provide SRO with 34 highspeed passenger train-sets from its Talgo 350 series, which will be based on trains already proved on service in Spain since 2003: Renfe’s 102 and 112 Series. One more, VIP train-set will be provided for the exclusive use of the King of Saudi Arabia, his family and its assistants.
An option for the supply of 23 train-sets will be considered in the future. Each train set will have 12 coaches, with seats for 400- 500 passengers. Renfe and Adif will operate the trains and manage the line for 12 years. According to Renfe, the contract award is unprecedented in Spain as no rail operator has ever participated in such a large-scale foreign project. It hopes also that the contract could open the door to other projects in the Middle East.
The desire was to ensure that all railway workers were Saudis, but for safety andtechnological reasons expatriate experts have also had to be appointed. Saudization levels will be at 75%, with the railway contracts stipulating Saudi workers have to be trained in specialized areas of train and railway operations. New Trains, New Travellers
There are of course many benefits to the construction of the Haramain High Speed Rail project, not the least the ability to better exploit the natural resources in the Kingdom and take advantage of its economic capabilities, which will be achieved through sustained economic growth. The new railway will also cut down the current dependence on roads and the resulting heavy investment in road maintenance due to the continuous movement of heavy goods vehicles.
A great deal of time and cost in transporting goods coming from Europe and North America to both the domestic market and to the various Gulf countries through unloading at the seaport of Jeddah will be saved, with future ongoing transportation carried out via train.
A number of new jobs will be created too, particularly for graduates in relevant scientific and professional specialties, which will help fuel further expansion of the railway network. Naturally, the railway will contribute significantly to the emergence of new industries that will no doubt arise with the integration of such fields as mining and other heavy industries. And this will also create new opportunities in sectors such as insurance, maintenance, supply, construction and engineering.
Perhaps most noticeable to people ‘on the street’ will be the easing of traffic congestion and new levels of road safety in the areas in which the railway passes through. What is more, it will provide an alternative means of transportation for passengers travelling between the areas of the Kingdom, especially for the holy shrines areas.
To sum up, railway transport has several advantages over other means of passenger/goods transportation, including: Safety: railway accident averages and related injuries and deaths are much lower than those of other means of transportation such as motor vehicles. Speed: the average time needed to transport people or materials from one point to another by railway has become quite competitive with other means of transportation, and is being continuously improved by increasing train speeds, reducing the length of their routes, etc.
Capacity: trains are capable of carrying larger number of passengers and greater volumes of goods that other means of transportation cannot handle. Comfort: trains offer passengers more comfort and freedom of movement inside the trains’ cars. Environmental protection: trains are considered one of the most energy-efficient means of transportation. To transport one passenger one kilometre, a car needs twice to five times the energy consumed by a train. This average increases from four to eight times in the case of an aircraft.
Traffic jam reduction: utilizing trains to convey such big numbers of passengers and high volumes of goods means less cars and trucks on the roads, i.e., fewer accidents, less pollution and less time wasted. Economic Feasibility: based on the above benefits, railway transportation reduces the cost of transporting passengers and materials as well as road maintenance costs.
A Growing Network, a Growing Fleet
The Haramain High Speed Rail project will add to the network of railways already operated by SRO, which have a total length of approximately 1380 kilometers, extending from King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam and the City of Dammam itself (on theKingdom’s east coast) to Riyadh, the Capital in Central Arabia, passing by Abqaiq, Hofuf, Haradh, Al-Tawdhihiyah and Al-Kharj. In addition, some auxiliary lines branch from SRO’s main lines to connect some industrial and agricultural areas and military sites with export ports and residential areas.
Railroads operated by SRO include: • The Passenger Line: this is a 449-kilometer line that connects Riyadh to Dammam through Al-Ahsa and Abqaiq. The Cargo Line: this is a 556-kilometer line starting at King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam and ending in Riyadh, passing by Al-Ahsa, Abqaiq, Al-Kharj, Haradh and Al- Tawdhihiyah. Branch lines: these have a total length of 373 kilometres, and connect some industrial and agricultural production sites and some military sites with export ports and some residential areas. Besides the six 2000-horsepower locomotives added to those working in cargo shipping, SRO plans to increase its passenger and goods transportation activity by more or less 60% of its current levels. This expansion will be made possible by ordering eight new sets of luxurious and fast trains; each consisting of two locomotives and five cars, adding more than 2000 seats, making it possible to transport more than 5000 passengers on a daily basis between Riyadh and Dammam. SRO’s fleet currently consists of 59 diesel locomotives and 75 passenger cars. These are classified into 13 cars of the Al-Rehab class with a capacity of 585 seats, 10 cars of Al- Taleaa class with a capacity of 714 seats, 27 cars of Al- Qafila class with a capacity of 2096 seats, along with two special-class cars, nine diner cars, 13 luggage and power generation cars, and one car that has been specially fitted as an ambulance car to enhance safety. Cargo cars total 1860 of different sizes and types, including 420 cars for double stacking of containers, 965 regular cars for containers, 276 cement transportation cars, 135 grain hauling cars, 27 flatbeds for transporting vehicles, and 37 cars for hauling rocks.
The capacity of each double stacking cargo car is 80 tons. Regular cars for containers have a capacity of 50 tons. This brings the total capacity of cargo handling by both types of cars in SRO to 48,250 tons. The number of passengers and cargo is expected to grow after the completion of the existing expansion projects and those being planned, as the number of traded containers on the land bridge is expected to more than 700,000 by 2015, which means a total of eight million tons of cargo.
Investing in Safety
There is no doubt that safety is of the utmost importance within the railways industry; both in construction and operation. And safety is ‘job one’ at SRO, with international reports and statistics giving the Kingdom a leading position in this vital area. This is because SRO has invested heavily in safety projects and is committed to looking after both railway workers and passengers.
An excellent example of this philosophy can be seen in SRO’s determination to enhance train safety through the introduction of modern technologies such as integrated signals and communication systems, the integrated train detection during travel system, the train on-track stability sensing systems, and a state-of-the-art simulation system for training train drivers. SRO also invests in scientific and research projects, including the development and organization of symposia to study certain operational phenomena and problems such as sand encroachment on railway lines and other safety issues.
A number of projects are carried out to enhance the safety of the network too. These include the successful completion of the installation of an 800-km fence to provide more safety on railways in areas with heavy car and livestock traffic. SRO also completed a project to build passageways for cars and livestock at the railway intersections in remote areas. Another project, costing SR 600 million, revolves around relocating the entire route of the railway in Al-Ahsa to outside urban areas, thus eliminating intersections with high traffic.
In addition, there have been projects aimed at enhancing safety at intersections, through fitting some of these intersections with electronic gates, light signals, alarm bells, and warning plates, as well as assigning controllers to these intersections around the clock and providing only light signals without gates at medium traffic sites. SRO has also installed speed bumps to force drivers to reduce their speed at such intersections. SRO’s efforts in the area of safety have resulted in achieving high safety levels.
SRO’s core vision is to operate a state-of the art railway network that covers the Kingdom, has international connections and utilizes national manpower to deliver worldclass efficient and economic services that realize the benefits of rail transport to the national economy.
SRO is working very hard to provide the best services possible within the current operational structure, and the completion of the Haramain High Speed Rail project, in tandem with other developments currently underway or on the drawing board, will provide Saudi Arabia with the transport infrastructure to grow and expand as a nation. It is envisaged that the Haramain High Speed Rail project will be completed as scheduled and passenger trains will start running in 2014.