DAMMAM: Activity at the train stations in Riyadh and Dammam has become hectic as the number of Saudi and expatriate commuters between the two cities has increased dramatically.
To some Arab and Asian expatriates, these aesthetically built stations, buzzing as they are with activity, are a familiar sight. They resemble train stations in their own countries such as Egypt, India and Pakistan.
Regular commuters including women told Arab News trains remain the most preferred mode of transport for people traveling between Dammam and Riyadh.
The recent train derailment that led to a number of injuries has had little or no effect on passenger confidence or rail traffic.
Ibrahim Rizq, an Egyptian executive working for a major furniture group, said: “I frequently take the train to Dammam from Riyadh and vice versa for my business trips. I consider this to be the safest mode and so far by the grace of Allah I have had no problems.”
Rizq knows full well about the recent accident, but played the incident down. “Accidents can happen anywhere, anytime, but I think, and you’ll agree with me, that the highways are far more dangerous than the train tracks.”
Rizq gets angry with the limousine drivers that drive on the Riyadh-Dammam highway. “They are mad and drive you crazy. They simply love putting the pedal down.”
Rahman Abdul Sattar, a Pakistani expatriate, agrees with Rizq’s description of limousine drivers on the highways. He said: “They want to make as many trips between Dammam and Riyadh as they can in a day so they can make more money. So they try to cover the distance of 400 km in just two hours.”
Mohammad Ilyas, a young IT assistant at King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Riyadh, was on the train to Riyadh from Dammam on Friday. Referring to the special compartment for families, he said: “These trains are luxurious and offer full security to the womenfolk.
“I had to travel to Dammam to drop my sister and her children and for me taking the train was the best possible option. I can’t think of getting into a private taxi with my sister and children. What if the taxi breaks down in the middle of the highway?”
Mohammed Nasser Al-Ghamdi, a former Saudi Aramco employee, is a regular train commuter and told Arab News such journeys are like stress-busters. “I love conversations, and on these trains you usually meet interesting people. I get a kick out of talking to people and knowing about them and their culture," he said.