EU, GCC to sign MoU on railway cooperation
EU, GCC to sign MoU on railway cooperation
“The 28-member EU has really good experience in managing cross-border railway connectivity, which we will share with GCC besides our technical knowhow,” said Violeta Bulc, European transport commissioner, in an exclusive interview with Arab News here, on Tuesday. Bulc gave an overview of the EU-Saudi relations as well as EU-GCC ties with special reference to the growing cooperation including projects and plans in transport sector.
The proposed MoU between the EU and the GCC, once endorsed by the two sides, will be an important step to cater to the transportation needs of the GCC, which has one of the highest rates of population growth today. The construction of the 2,117 km-long GCC railway network is expected to be completed by 2021. According to Middle East Eye (MME), an online news portal, the total cost of the GCC railway project including linking the six countries by rail will be $250 billion.
Referring to her meeting with GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani, Bulc said that she had discussions about possibilities of cooperation in different areas with special reference to the potentials in the railway sector. She said that “the EU would like to support GCC with its experiences, especially in terms of standards and regulatory framework in the railway sector.”
“We can also share technical solutions to the problems,” said the EU official.
She said that that the GCC chief made it categorically clear the “EU should also move to ensure progress on GCC-EU free trade agreement.”
Asked about the proposed free trade agreement (FTA), which has been on the back burner for the last several years, Bulc said that “to be honest with you, GCC-EU FTA is the only long-term tool with investment to ensure growth, job creation and development.”
In fact, the GCC and the EU launched negotiations for free trade agreement back in 1990. But the negotiations met a dead end in 2008 when they were suspended indefinitely. The two blocs, which do realize the importance of FTA, are willing to initiate the negotiations again. The FTA is foreseen to provide for a progressive and reciprocal liberalization of trade in goods and services.
Referring to her wide-ranging talks with Sulaiman Al-Hamdan, minister of transport, she said that a similar MoU to boost cooperation in railway sector will be separately inked with Saudi Arabia. She, however, did not point out the dates of endorsing the two MoUs. She said that the proposed MoU will help Saudi side to acquire “standards, regulatory framework and also create better environment for businesses to engage in the deployment of addition railway tracks in the Kingdom.”
She said that Saudi Arabia is one of the key countries with deployment of European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), which is the modern management system to operate railways. Moreover, the EU transport commissioner said that EU companies have already been partners in the deployment of railway systems in the Kingdom.
Asked about the outcome of her meeting with Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, deputy minister of economy and planning, the official said that “we primarily discussed different financial models used and deployed by the EU.” “The two sides agreed to hold regular consultations as far as investment environment is concerned,” said Bulc.
She pointed out that the EU and Saudi Arabia have also agreed to work together in the areas of road safety, urban mobility and emerging technologies as well as emissions control. On the investment front and in the context of the EU, she said that “the investment plan for Europe aims to encourage investment in order to create jobs, boost growth and competitiveness, meet long-term economic needs and strengthen EU’s productive capacity and infrastructure.”
The key element is the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), which encourages investments in infrastructure projects and SMEs, she added. By providing a total guarantee of 21 billion euros for business and infrastructure projects, of which 16 billion euros is from the EU budget and 5 billion euros from the European Investment Bank, the EFSI aims to unlock additional investment of at least 315 billion euros over three years, according to a booklet entitled ‘Investment Plan for Europe’, which was released by the EU transport commission during the EU-GCC business forum here.
Referring to her meetings in the Saudi capital, Bulc said that she had met a group of Saudi women leaders and held very “constructive dialogue.” She said the two sides have agreed to identify some projects of “cultural nature”, which will eventually provide an effective platform to talk and share experiences. She also counted several new projects and plans being implemented in Europe for peace and progress.
To this end, she noted that the European Commission (EC) has adopted regulations from the new European Rail Traffic Management System European Deployment Plan (ERTMS EDP). With the new ERTMS in place, trains across Europe are set to run seamlessly by replacing differing national technical systems. The EU is also working to unify the rules and legislations for operating cross-border railway easily and effectively.
Unique Riyadh car race brings in enthusiasts from all around
- FJR racing team owner Falah Al-Jarba, who is participating for the first time with his 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, said he was impressed with the first round turnout and noted that the short notice of this event did not affect participation
RIYADH: The first round of the Saudi Time Attack race kicked off on the Reem race circuit yesterday. The 16-category race is unique in its participation since anyone can turn up and join in. Whether you are an everyday driver, enthusiast or would-be racer the Time Attack Race has a category for you.
“We target different types of drivers, usually people with a sports car or regular stock car who want to race their car to the max in a safe environment with other drivers,” said Prince Khalid bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). He added that the target participants for this race are not necessarily professionals but rather enthusiasts, semi pros, amateurs, and beginners.
FJR racing team owner Falah Al-Jarba, who is participating for the first time with his 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, said he was impressed with the first round turnout and noted that the short notice of this event did not affect participation.
“It is not hard to get anyone on to the track — the hardest thing is to get them back again. Anyone who enters the race track three times of his own free will has the makings of a driver,” he said.
Prince Mohammed bin Saud bin Fahad bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, participating racer and owner of the MS7 racing team, said it is passion that attracts everyone to the race. “It is not a head-to-head race but it is competitive and it is fun. There is no pressure — everyone is here to have fun. I am happy that I participated,” he explained. This also marks a first for Saudi women racing as four women competed for the first time in a car race.
“For the first time we have a ladies category. These opportunities will be better reflected in two to three years’ time but if anyone would ask where did it start, it started here in this 2018 season,” said the “Camaro King” Falah Al-Jarba.
Prince Mohammed is very welcoming of any new competitor to the racing industry.
“At the end of the day if you have two hands, two legs and can drive that’s what it comes down to regardless of your gender, your weight, your height or your size, it is all about how well you can perform under pressure,” he said.
Prince Khalid expects a better turnout for female participants in the next round of the race scheduled for Nov. 16. He added that there has been a great interest in joining the race and wanted to clarify that anyone who wants to take part in the race does not need to have a race car.