Metro project to bring Riyadh on par with world’s great cities

Updated 23 September 2014
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Metro project to bring Riyadh on par with world’s great cities

The $22.5 billion metro project — called King Abdulaziz Project for Riyadh Public Transport — is a linchpin of the Saudi capital’s modernization program. It will be the backbone of the Saudi capital’s public transport system and a key component of growth.
“The project will redefine the concept of public transportation, providing Riyadh residents and visitors with a world-class transportation system,” said the Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) which spearheads the project.
The Riyadh Metro, which is expected to be completed in less than five years, will also place the Saudi capital on par with the world’s modern cities in advanced countries whose railway projects have played a key role in industrialization and modernization.
With the great promise of the project for the residents of the capital city, Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, governor of Riyadh, said: “There are many indirect benefits for this project. It will save a lot of time for Saudis and expats and will have a huge economic impact.”
He said that the metro will ease traffic congestion and reduce pollution by cutting the number of vehicles on the city’s roads.
The project is also expected to create jobs and elevate living standards in the wake of an improved transport system described as “second to none.”
The Riyadh Metro is significant indeed and this is underlined by the full-page ads taken out in major newspapers to explain and disseminate basic information about the project which was launched in 2013 by the then Riyadh Gov. Prince Khaled bin Bandar, who is now the deputy defense minister.
“The efforts of the ADA in this regard is highly appreciated by the residents. Talk to them about it , particularly those who drive to work daily, and they show you the thumbs-up sign,” said Saad Al-Bazei, a Shoura member and an author in Arabic and English.
He said that residents will no longer use their cars to go to work or any other place in the city and would just commute through the Metro project.
As a result, there will be less pollution and the residents will have a city that indeed befits its name, which means “garden.”
Eric P. Asi, a senior engineer at Nardeen Lighting, said: “I enjoy driving to work with the existing road network from my residence on Sitteen Street to the Second Industrial Area but commuting through the Riyadh Metro will be more practical and sensible.”
Resty S. Sibug, a mechanical engineer and the Riyadh area manager at Saudi TKT, which is an electro-mechanical contractor at the Riyadh Metro, said: “The project is exciting indeed. It brings to mind similar transportation facilities in Dubai, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Toronto, San Francisco, Paris and Switzerland.”
Work on the project is under way. It includes 756 metro cars, 85 stations, 6 metro lines and 176-km. network. It will also include 3,853 bus stops and stations, 24 bus routes, 1,150 km network and 956 buses.
Three foreign groups have been awarded contracts to build the project.
These groups include the US Construction company Bechtel Group Inc., Spain’s FCC and Italy’s Ansaldo STS.
Bechtel heads a consortium that include AECOM Technology Corp. and Germany’s Siemens which were awarded to build two rail lines.
Another consortium — headed by Spanish construction firm FCC and including France’s Alstom Transport and South Korea’s Samsung C&T Corp. — will build three rail lines worth $7.82 billion.
A third group, led by Italian Ansaldo STS, won a $5.21 billion contract to build the remaining rail line. The group comprises Canadian firm Bombardier and India’s Larsen & Toubro Limited.


Saudis recall history's greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 8 min 2 sec ago
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Saudis recall history's greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


EVENTS WATCH

1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.


The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.