KSA’s Haramain train speeds toward a 2018 opening

Saudi officials and foreign visitors are seen in one of the Haramain train couches during a test-run of the mass transport system last year. (SPA file photo)
Updated 17 March 2018
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KSA’s Haramain train speeds toward a 2018 opening

MADINAH: The SR60 billion ($16 billion) high-speed Haramain train is on track to be fully operational this year, according to Minister of Transportation and Chairman of the Saudi Railway Organization Nabil Al-Amoudi.
He said that the service will be functional for the public in 2018, in conformity with all safety measures and operational readiness for high-speed transportation.
Al-Amoudi said the pilot operation has been going to plan since the end of 2017: The project’s supervisors have organized regular trips in which a large number of governmental, non-governmental and charitable bodies have participated.
The latest passengers were Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman, Al-Amoudi and the Chairman of the Public Transport Authority (PTA) and acting Head of the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) Rumaih bin Mohammed Al-Rumaih, onboard for a journey that left Madinah on Friday.
Prince Faisal expressed his appreciation to King Salman for his support of public transport in the Kingdom, and especially for the high-speed train. The project is part of the Kingdom’s role in serving pilgrims to the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque.
Prince Faisal praised the performance of the young men and women providing services in the train stations, effectively participating in the establishment phases and implementation of the service.
Meanwhile, Al-Amoudi said that the support of Prince Faisal had made it easier to face challenges and encouraged the work team to build the Haramain station in Madinah and the related phases within the time frame of the project.
Al-Amoudi stressed the PTA’s drive to take transport in the Kingdom to another level, guaranteeing opportunities for nationalization and thus achieving the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
He said that the Haramain train station was proof of the Kingdom’s competence in achieving such projects.
The Haramain service is one of the biggest public transport projects in the Middle East, a 450 kilometer two-way electric train linking Makkah and Madinah, with extensions to Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City.
The project will transport 60 million passengers a year on 35 trains, with a seating capacity of 417 per train and traveling at a speed of 300 kph.
The station is about 3 km from the Grand Mosque in Makkah, while the Madinah station is located in the Knowledge Economic City on King Abdul Aziz Road.
Umrah visitors, who are expected to reach about 15 million by 2020, are eagerly waiting for the full operation of the Haramain train, which will cross the distance between the two holy cities in two hours instead of six hours by bus.
The project includes four train stations in Makkah, Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City and Madinah, in addition to a fifth station at the new King Abdul Aziz Airport.


Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

Updated 29 min 49 sec ago
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Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

  • Winners of first Golden Falcon award will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques
  • Film screenings have been revived in KSA as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 

RIYADH: Saudi films have won awards at an international film festival organized by the Netherlands to coincide with the return of cinema to the Kingdom.

The first Golden Falcon Film Festival awards drew Saudi actors, filmmakers and cinema-lovers to the Netherlands embassy in Riyadh on Wednesday.

More than 30 shortlisted Saudi films were shown at the maiden festival on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nine films were nominated, with three each in the best film, best script and best director categories. Overall winners were chosen by an international jury headed by Dutch filmmaker Hans Treffers.

Best movie award went to “Mazban.” The other two films nominated in the category were “Tongue” and “Building 20.”

“The Poetess,” “Matour” and “Atoor” were nominated in the best director category with “Atoor” bagging the award.

“Departures,” “Atoor” and “The Remaining” were nominated in the best script category with “Departures” winning the award.

Besides the Golden Falcon trophy, the winners will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques.

Joost Reintjes, the Netherlands ambassador in Riyadh, told Arab News: “We are proud to organize the first Golden Falcon Film Festival here to promote filmmaking in the Kingdom and provide a platform for young Saudi filmmakers to show what they have to offer.”

Film screenings — banned in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s following religious changes in the Kingdom — have been revived as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The return of cinema was heralded with a film screening on Wednesday at a newly built theater at the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh. 

Commenting on the lifting of the 35-year ban, Reintjes told Arab News: “That’s Vision 2030 — it is good sign to diversify and develop.

“Although the cinemas in the Kingdom have only been restarted now, Saudi filmmaking has already made a name for itself on the world stage.

“The Saudi film industry will grow very fast. The level of talent is high,” he said.

Mohammed Al-Qass, lead actor from “Departure,” said: “We have been working for this day for years. 

“Saudis with a thirst for cinema were traveling outside the country — now they can enjoy and share the experience in their homeland.” 

Mohammed Khawajah, a Saudi filmmaker and adviser for the film festival, told Arab News: “The idea for this festival came last year when the lifting of the cinema ban was being discussed.

“The Netherlands embassy had this idea about nine months ago; we sat together and planned the whole festival, which was carried out successfully, with hundreds of people enjoying Saudi films.

“We will improve with our next festival, which will have more fun and entertainment,” he said.