Riyadh Metro on track, says builder

Workers are seen at a construction site of the Riyadh metro system in this photo taken on August 26, 2015. Work on the metro system is still in progress. (AFP PHOTO / AHMED FARWAN)
Updated 09 January 2017

Riyadh Metro on track, says builder

RIYADH: A major contractor on Riyadh’s $22.5 billion urban rail and bus system said Monday the project is on track despite government cuts to infrastructure last year after oil revenues fell.
The Metro is the biggest infrastructure project in the history of the Saudi capital.
“We are progressing. The project is going on satisfactorily. It is a priority project” for the government, Pietro Bagnati, project director for the Italian construction group Salini Impregilo, told AFP.
His firm leads the ArRiyadh New Mobility consortium, one of three foreign groups building the six-line Metro project planned to cover 179 kilometers (109 miles) of the sprawling, congested city.
The underground and elevated rail network is to be supported by a bus system.
Asked if there had been any cuts to New Mobility’s portion of the project, the Line 3 railway covering 42 kilometers, Bagnati said: “Our contract is still the same.”
He spoke on the sidelines of the EU-GCC Business Forum which aims to strengthen trade and investment ties between the European Union and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
The EU is the Gulf’s biggest trading partner.
Construction on the Riyadh Metro began in late 2013 with 2018 the date initially targeted for completion.
EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said she understood the completion date to be 2019, and described the Metro as “the biggest global project in urban mobility.”
Bulc, who opened the EU-GCC forum, spoke to reporters later, after touring the Metro’s tunnels and stations.
“The deadlines are very demanding but so far they’re following... the deadlines well,” she said.
“As far as I could tell... it’s moving well.”
She arrived Friday in Saudi Arabia, meeting ministers and officials to focus on mutual investment opportunities.
Analysts say Saudi Arabia made significant reductions last year in its capital spending, including infrastructure, to adjust to a collapse in oil prices since 2014.
This year’s budget projects a rise in infrastructure and transport spending, to 52 billion riyals ($13.9 billion) from 37.5 billion riyals in 2016.
The government says it will finish paying early this year billions of dollars it owes to private firms, chiefly in the construction sector, after cuts to projects as oil revenues fell.


Saudi women embrace COVID-19 measures at driving schools

Photo/ArabsStock.
Updated 57 min 49 sec ago

Saudi women embrace COVID-19 measures at driving schools

  • Students are not allowed to head to class until 15 minutes before it starts in order to monitor the degree of socialization and distancing between them

JEDDAH: Women in Saudi Arabia have been able to resume driving lessons and license applications, but with a few changes as the country eases restrictions and cautiously returns to normality amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Kingdom’s return to normality began on June 21 and businesses were allowed to continue their activities, but only by implementing the safety regulations and directives from the Ministry of Interior to ensure everyone’s safety.

Regulations at women’s driving schools include maintaining a minimum 1-meter distance between people in waiting areas and classrooms, providing hand sanitizers, disinfecting the area at least twice a day, checking the temperature of visitors and workers and refusing entry to anyone with a temperature of over 38° C.

There is also the provision for an onsite room to hold people suspected of being infected, and the appointment of a monitoring body to eliminate social gatherings between classes or in waiting areas and parking lots.

For Sahar Al-Shenawi, a deputy director at a corporate communications firm in Jeddah, these precautions could save her father’s life.

“My father is on dialysis and I’m always taking care of him and giving his medication,” she told Arab News. “I was very surprised to see how prepared they were when I returned (to driving school). It made me feel safe.”

Al-Shenawi was asked to show her ID upon arrival and get her temperature checked before entering the building.

“Seats in the waiting hall and classrooms were a meter apart and very clean. The room was also well ventilated. Everyone was wearing a mask, and instructors and employees would tell everyone coming in not to take off their mask for the duration of their stay.”

Students are not allowed to head to class until 15 minutes before it starts in order to monitor the degree of socialization and distancing between them.

Al-Shenawi began her theory classes this week and she noticed that the length of sessions had decreased from two hours to one to ensure students did not spend too much unnecessary time together.

After class, the instructor escorts five students at a time to minimize overcrowding.

“The theory and simulation parts of the course were merged, because the practical sessions are more important,” she said. “Their examination was canceled, while the first hour is to be spent on theory education and the second on simulation practice.” She added that their preparedness had made her feel very comfortable.

“Precautions should be taken from both sides, not only the organization or the places we go to. These precautions are nowadays considered as social etiquette and manners, it shows how much an individual is responsible, aware and cares about the community and the people around him or her,” Al-Shenawi said, adding that she hoped people were careful with themselves and one another once they left their homes.

Bashayer Al-Mahmadi, a health insurance employee from Jeddah, had a similar experience at driving school. She was reassured when she entered the waiting area and saw that adjacent seats were empty, and was relieved by the sight of hand sanitizers at every corner.

“Only four individuals are allowed into the elevators, and social distancing was maintained throughout my visit to the school,” she told Arab News.

Al-Mahmadi recommended that schools ensured that classrooms had hand sanitizers in them, and for gloves to be distributed among students. “I didn’t notice any during my simulation lecture either, and I was a little disappointed.”