King Salman inaugurates Saudi Arabia’s Haramain railway

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King Salman oversaw the services that will be available to passengers when the railway opens to the public next month. (SPA)
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One of the new Haramain train stations that were inaugurated on Tuesday. (CIC)
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King Salman (L) and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (R) oversaw the services that will be available to passengers when the railway opens to the public next month. (SPA)
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King Salman oversaw the services that will be available to passengers when the railway opens to the public next month. (SPA)
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One of the new Haramain train stations that were inaugurated on Tuesday. (CIC)
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King Salman oversaw the services that will be available to passengers when the railway opens to the public next month. (SPA)
Updated 26 September 2018
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King Salman inaugurates Saudi Arabia’s Haramain railway

  • The King oversaw the services that the railway will offer passengers when it opens to the public next month
  • The network will carry 60 million passengers a year with a fleet of 35 trains

JEDDAH: King Salman launched the Haramain High-Speed Railway, the biggest electric speed train project in the Middle East, at Jeddah’s Al-Sulaymaniyah station on Tuesday.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, adviser to the king and governor of Makkah, along with senior officials and dignitaries.

The ceremony concluded with the king taking the train to Madinah. The train was captained by a Saudi national driver, Abdullah Al-Ahmadi. 

Minister of transport, Dr. Nabil Al-Amoudi, delivered a speech saying that the Kingdom had always been proud of serving pilgrims. “The two holy places are now closer than ever,” he said.

He added that King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had directed the implementation of comprehensive work plans for the transport industry in the Kingdom. He said that the leadership had supported the project to overcome all obstacles so that it could meet the growth in the number of pilgrims and visitors to the two holy places of Makkah and Madinah.

The Haramain High-Speed Railway project is in line with the objective of Vision 2030, the main goal of which is to increase the number of pilgrims and visitors to the holy places, he said. Transport is a main pillar of the national economy and a key driver of the economic renaissance that will take place under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy. 

Al-Amoudi presented a picture to the king, which showed King Abdul Aziz with King Saud at the launch of the first railway project (East Train) in the Kingdom in 1951.

Rumaih Al-Rumaih, chairman of the Public Transport Authority (PTA) and acting president of the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO), said that supervision of the project had ensured the operational efficiency of the project and all facilities were of the highest quality. “We were keen to introduce a trustworthy project that reflects the Kingdom’s care for pilgrims and visitors of holy sites, as well as the citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Al-Rumaih added that despite the technical and topographical challenges encountered during the project, the Al-Haramain train was one of the great achievements for the service of pilgrims and Umrah performers.

Al-Rumaih told Arab News that the train can annually transport 60 million passengers onboard a fleet of 35 trains, each one consisting of 417 seats. The trains are equipped with the latest technology to ensure comfort and safety.

As for women’s participation in the project, Al-Rumaih said that the government was working to provide jobs for young men and women. “Women are the other half of the society and we can see them one day driving our trains,” he told Arab News.

With a speed of 300 km and hour, Al-Rumaih said that the train would cover a distance of 450 km, linking stations in Makkah, Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah (KAIA), King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Rabigh and Madinah.

The SR60 billion ($16 billion) mega project went through three stages before screens could display journey timetables at the stations. The first stage, which was carried out by a consortium of national and international companies, started with the construction of 130 bridges and 850 water channels, a process in which some 150 million cubic meters of sand and rocks were removed to prepare the route for the train.

The second stage involved the construction of four stations in Makkah, Jeddah, Rabigh and Madinah. The construction of the fifth station, at the KAIA, was part of the airport project. 

The third stage involved the construction of a railway line and the importation of the systems for signals, controls, ticketing and telecommunication.


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

Updated 20 July 2019
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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.