Saudi Arabia’s Haramain train project expected to serve 30 million pilgrims

Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman on board the high-speed Haramain train from Madinah to Makkah on Friday.
Updated 18 March 2018

Saudi Arabia’s Haramain train project expected to serve 30 million pilgrims

JEDDAH: The high-speed Haramain train’s importance to Saudi Arabia has been highlighted with an announcement by King Salman that he will rely on the super-fast service for his next visit to Madinah.
The city’s governor, Prince Faisal bin Salman, expressed his appreciation to the Saudi ruler for his support of public transport in the Kingdom, and especially for the high-speed Haramain 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 used the high-speed rail for the journey to Friday prayers at the Grand Mosque of Makkah.
“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman, has informed me of his intention to take the Haramain high-speed rail soon when he visits Madinah or departs from it to Makkah,” Prince Faisal said.
Among passengers for a journey that left Madinah on Friday were Prince Faisal, Minister of Transportation and chairman of the Saudi Railway Organization Nabil Al-Amoudi, and Chairman of the Public Transport Authority (PTA) and acting head of the Saudi Railways Organization Rumaih bin Mohammed Al-Rumaih.
Prince Faisal highlighted the importance of the project linking Makkah and Madinah through Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh in light of efforts to receive 30 million pilgrims as part of Vision 2030 program to diversify revenues.
He said the Haramain high-speed rail link was among the safest and most important transportation services in the world. The rail service will enhance the flow of visitors to the Two Holy Mosques through the link between the two holy cities.
The Madinah governor expressed confidence in the performance of the Saudi youth and the services they provide at the stations.
“What I saw invites me to register my honor and pride in the significant role played by young men and women in all stages of the development, including their effective contribution and participation in establishing and implementing the high-speed rail.”
Al-Amoudi said the support of Prince Faisal had made it easier to meet the challenges faced by work teams building the Haramain station in Madinah and the related phases within the time frame of the project.
He said the SR60 billion ($16 billion) high-speed train is on track to be fully operational this year.
Al-Amoudi said the pilot operation has been going to plan since the end of 2017. Project supervisors have organized regular trips in which a large number of governmental, non-governmental and charitable bodies have participated.
He said the PTA was focused on taking transport in the Kingdom to another level, guaranteeing opportunities for nationalization and thus achieving the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
The Haramain train station was proof of the Kingdom’s competence in achieving such projects, he said.
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 carry 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 three kilometers from the Grand Mosque in Makkah, while the Madinah station is located in the Knowledge Economic City on King Abdul Aziz Road.


Final straw: How Saudi youth are winning the war on waste

Taha Boksmati, 26, an environmental specialist, has teamed up with the British International School to source plastic materials that can be reused by the school’s artists. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 22 min 48 sec ago

Final straw: How Saudi youth are winning the war on waste

  • Reusable items surge in popularity as eco groups turn plastic trash into treasure

JEDDAH: Today’s generation of young, environmentally conscious Saudis is turning to more sustainable alternatives in a bid to reduce plastic waste in their everyday lives. Items such as reusable straws, cups and grocery bags are becoming commonplace at coffee shops and supermarkets in the Kingdom.
According to UN Environment, manufacturers around the world produce more than 300 million tons of plastic waste every year.
Taha Boksmati, 26, an environmental specialist at the Saudi General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection, is the founder of Jeddah’s Hejaz Ploggers group, which has teamed up with the British International School to source plastic materials that can be reused by the school’s artists.
After discovering the growing worldwide trend of plogging, an activity that combines jogging and picking up litter, Boksmati and his team started combing the coastline near Jeddah.
“We found an enormous amount of trash covering our beautiful beaches and endangering marine life,” he said.
“We realized instantly the amazing number of plastic straws, caps and bottles that are consumed and thrown away every day. The awareness of reducing and reusing waste is low in our community.
“We are simply used to the luxury of single-time use followed by immediate reckless disposal.”

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300 million Tons of plastic waste each year

The ploggers’ group partnered with the British International School and helped plog for plastic material to be reused by the school’s artists, and also upcycled collected plastic into artistic designs suitable for display and sale.
“In return, our members were given reusable items as a token of appreciation for their distinguished efforts. Reusable gifts included a stainless steel water bottle, a ceramic coffee cup, fabric shopping bags, bamboo utensil sets and a zero-waste home guide book.”
Boksmati said that members of the plogging group already choose reusable items, and now he is seeking to raise awareness of the issue outside his environmental community.
“I always share the benefits of reusable items as well as remind people of the consequences if we do not adopt these reusing and reducing practices,” he told Arab News.
“Few people realize that plastic waste blocks the natural ability of our oceans to absorb carbon dioxide, further worsening the global warming problem, not to mention the dangers of microplastics, which are now found in almost everything we use, such as clothing and water bottles, and even in the fish we eat,” he said.

FASTFACT

PepsiCo. has pledged by 2025 to package its Aquafina water in aluminum cans rather than plastic bottles.

Boksmati said that his team hoped to establish a junior plogging group, as well as strengthen its collaboration with international and local schools.
“We want to engage with students of all ages to teach them about recycling and upcycling. We also aim to encourage alternatives to drinking water from plastic bottles as well as encourage people to reduce meat intake due to its environmental impact on water resources.”
He added: “We hope to strengthen our brand auditing activity during our plogs, enabling our international partner, Breakfreefromplastic, to pressure local and international companies to make their products without plastic packaging and transition to other eco-friendly alternatives.”
The food giant PepsiCo, for example, has pledged by 2025 to package its Aquafina water in aluminum cans rather than in plastic bottles, he said.
Tala Al-Marbai, an 18-year-old foundation student at King Abdul Aziz University, said the Kingdom’s approach to plastic waste reduction has been improving since 2016.
“Then not so many cared about our environment. But it’s the community’s job to spread awareness about the health of the environment. A video went viral on social media showing a plastic straw that was found inside a sea turtle’s nostrils. Many animals have been harmed because of our negligence toward nature,” she told Arab News
Al-Marbai said this alternative is cost-efficient as well.
“I bought a stainless steel cup and straw from an online store called Boutiqaat, which cost SR164 ($44) with delivery. It’s a bit expensive, but if you buy an iced coffee, that will cost SR24, so after seven times you would be spending the same amount of money,” she said.
Al-Marbai said that she is the only environmentally conscious person among her group of friends, and she hopes to influence her circle.

 

“One person will influence another and the message will spread. Imagine one person having reusable items and, bit by bit, people surrounding them might do the same. Eventually, even companies, markets and shops will produce more environmentally friendly items and products.”
She added: “I hope people remember every time they throw any plastic around, how many creatures they are going to hurt or even kill. Globally, it is estimated that more than 100 million marine creatures are killed each year by plastic waste.”
Bateel Al-Saleem, 21, who is studying French at King Saud University and is a part-time barista, said that she turned to sustainable alternatives after watching videos of the harmful effects of plastic on marine life.
“I was scrolling through social media one day and I saw a video of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose. It made me feel so sad. I started googling the effects of plastic on the environment and what I could do to help,” she told Arab News
Al-Saleem now takes her reusable items wherever she goes.
“I keep a bag of my reusable utensils in my backpack and I bring a cup with me if I’m going to a coffee shop,” she said.
“Some cafes refuse to use my cup because it has another coffee shop logo and sometimes they refuse because it’s not the same size as their cups. We definitely need to spread awareness about reusable items.”
She added: “My closest friends are environmentally conscious as well, but with my other friends I usually use my stuff in front of them so it can spark up a conversation.”
Al-Saleem is also part of a volunteer EarthUniTeam which promotes environmental awareness in universities.

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Upcycle

Reusing discarded materials to create something valuable or of further use.