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

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.

Saudi Arabia rises in English proficiency ranking

Delegates at the EF EPI conference pose for a group photo on Wednesday in Riyadh. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 7 min 25 sec ago

Saudi Arabia rises in English proficiency ranking

  • Scoring 43.65, Saudi Arabia is ranked 83rd in the world, ahead of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Libya

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has improved its ranking on the English proficiency index, a conference in the Kingdom heard on Wednesday.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) holds the highest ranking among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, ranking 71 globally and scoring 47.27.
EF Education First, a global education company focusing on language, academic, cultural exchange and educational travel programs, held its eighth edition of the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) Conference for the first time in the Kingdom here on Wednesday.
EF Education First released its annual global ranking of English proficiency, the EF EPI 2018, drawing on data from 1.3 million non-native English speakers in 88 countries and regions, at the conference.
Sweden topped the EF EPI, scoring 70.72 and knocking last year’s top-scorer the Netherlands into second place with a score of 70.31.
Speaking at the conference, David Bish, director of academic management, EF Education First, said that this year’s report was the biggest league table to date; the process included 1.3 million test-takers, recording a 30 percent increase over the past year.
There are 13 new entrants in the index this year: Afghanistan, Albania, Belarus, Bolivia, Croatia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Honduras, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Senegal and Uzbekistan.
Lebanon has been added to the index for the first time, and is the top performer in the Middle East, ranking 33 globally with its score of 55.79, which has helped to lift the overall average of the region slightly.
Scoring 43.65, Saudi Arabia is ranked 83rd in the world, ahead of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Libya.
Bish said that the English language is predicted to play a bigger role in the region with initiatives that aim to diversify the economy, investment in jobs and the education system.
Of Saudi Arabia, he said: “We have seen it improving over the last four years and making progress in the region’s index.”
Sharing some of the key findings, he said that Europe remains the global leader in English proficiency, with eight of the top 10 spots in the ranking. Africa had shown strong gains in English proficiency, with South Africa ranking sixth globally. Other rankings were: Nigeria (29), Senegal (39), Ethiopia (54), Egypt (62), Morocco (67), Tunisia (68), Algeria (81) and Libya (88).
Women continued to outsmart men in English skills worldwide, the index showed.
Bish told Arab News that the EF EPI was based on three tests. These are online tests using an EF scale of 1 to 80 in line with a common European frame of reference, and scores are put together to give an average score for each country.
“We need more than 3,000 people to take the tests before we prepare the index,” he said.
The EF EPI is based on test scores from the EF Standard English Test (EF SET), the world’s first free standardized English test. Thousands of schools, companies, and governments worldwide use the EF SET for large-scale testing.
EF EPI research finds that countries and individuals continue to invest in English education, recognizing the importance of the language as a lever for competitiveness.
Speaking at the conference, Jan Knutsson, the Swedish ambassador, expressed happiness about his country returning to the top spot.
For a country wishing to do the best in education, economy, trade and commerce, proficiency in English is key, he said.
Abdulrahman S. Alfuraih, general supervisor of English language at the Ministry of Education, said knowing the methodology and how it is prepared was important in building better results.

“We are improving and working continuously to further improve,” he said, adding that English is linked with the job market and so it is important to gain proficiency in it.
The ministry is working on an “English for All” program, he said.
There is also “Khebrat,” a teacher professional development program provided by the ministry for teachers of all subjects that aims to qualify Saudi cadres to take leadership in public education through training abroad at the best learning centers.
The teachers are sent to the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand to join the academic program and improve their proficiency. When they return they share their experiences with students to help in teaching and assessment.