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 TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

Photo/Supplied
Updated 12 July 2020

Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

  • Due to pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine

RIYADH: Chinese video platform TikTok is under fire once again, as rumors of the app being a tool used by the Chinese government to spy on users resurface online.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is a video-sharing site similar to the now-defunct Vine, where users share short clips of themselves which can be altered using AI technology.
Lip-syncing along with a track, using filters, and adding special effects give users the chance to create short clips that can be shared and downloaded in several social media platforms.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users downloaded TikTok to watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine. The app has also gained significant popularity in the Middle East with influencers such as Saudi model Roz, UAE-based content creators Khalid and Salama, and Saudi top TikToker iimeeto, who recently celebrated reaching four million followers on the platform.
Rania Mohammed, a fourth year medical student at Dar AlUloom University in Riyadh, said that TikTok was “the only thing keeping her sane” as she struggled with the pressures of school and quarantine.
“As a med school student, my attention span and free time are both severely limited,” she told Arab News. “Taking a 15 minute break to watch silly TikToks has helped me keep motivated. The specific brand of humor on that app is the fastest way to make me laugh.”
Mai Alhumood, a government employee, said that she downloaded the app while she was bored and became “quickly addicted” to the platform’s fun short videos.
“People are so creative on TikTok, and the challenges that keep going viral are so interesting,” she told Arab News.
However, the app has long-suffered from accusations of spying and gathering users’ private information on behalf of the Chinese government, leading to both temporary and permanent bans in countries around the world.
Recently, it was reported that Amazon requested that employees remove the app from their smartphones in an email over “security risks.” The company later retracted its directive.
Saudi cybersecurity expert Abdullah Al-Jaber believed that concerns over the security of TikTok’s collected data stemmed from the app’s country of origin and its rules and regulations.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a ‘threat to the sovereignty and security of the country’ following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.

• Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding ‘illegal content’ such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.

• Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. He said that banning the app would be ‘punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.’

“TikTok collects data in a very similar way to US applications,” he told Arab News. “However the main concern is that the US has regulations and compliance that must be met when collecting customer data, such as GDPR data privacy regulation. In the case of TikTok, we don’t know as much about how the data is being used or stored because we don’t know their regulations.”
Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a “threat to the sovereignty and security of the country” following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.
Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding “illegal content” such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.
Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. In an interview with Gray Television, Trump said that banning the app would be “punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.”
“Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful,” he said.
While Saudi Arabia has yet to announce a ban of any kind of TikTok, local users and followers are trying to practice caution while using the app anyway.
Alhumood considered making videos on the platform, but dismissed the idea and only uses it to follow other people’s videos.
“I have ideas for it, sure, but I’d rather not take the risk. I don’t even have a username or a registered account, and that’s one of the better things about TikTok. I only have the app, but I can still watch all the videos without giving them my private information.”
Mohammed also said that she had no interest in creating videos herself, though she did have a registered account in order to comment on videos and keep track of her favorites.
However Al-Jaber said that, in his opinion, registering an account on TikTok did not necessarily pose more of a risk than using other social media.
“If you use Facebook or Twitter, it’s not much different than using TikTok,” he said.