RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plans to more than triple the size of its rail network with 8,000 kilometers of new track, the country’s investment minister said on Wednesday.
“New rail will criss-cross the Kingdom and add to the network we already have,” Khalid Al-Falih told the Future Minerals Forum in Riyadh.
There are currently about 3,650 km of track on the Saudi rail network, on three lines.
The 2,750 km North-South line runs from Riyadh to the border with Jordan, and has feeder lines to mineral mining operations in the north of the Kingdom.
The Riyadh-Dammam stretches 450 km from the capital to the east coast, and the new 450 km Haramain high-speed line connects the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah via King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City to the north.
Al-Falih also said his ministry was working on a new investment law that would address the needs of both domestic and international investors.
The law would be enacted this year, “hopefully soon,” Al-Falih said, and would add to other regulatory and judicial reforms introduced by the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia said last year it would give foreign companies until the end of 2023 to set up headquarters in the Kingdom or risk losing out on government contracts. In October it said it had licensed 44 international companies to set up regional headquarters in Riyadh.
The Future Minerals Forum is a special event bringing together ministers, organizations and mining leaders from more than 30 countries.
Hosted by the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, is aimed at highlighting the role of mining in Saudi Vision 2030, after the government identified it as the third pillar of the Kingdom’s economy.
Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, told the forum that the transition away from fossil fuels to clean power was complicated, and the world needed to be flexible to avoid sacrificing energy security.
Energy transition needed to be thought through carefully, Prince Abdulaziz said. “It may end up be- ing a leap into the future, unfor- tunately an unknown future. We should not forfeit energy security for the sake of a publicity stunt.”
Prince Abdulaziz also said the Kingdom would be manufacturing and developing uranium.
“Let me be very specific about it, we do have a huge amount of uranium resources that we would like to exploit and we will be doing it in the most transparent way, we will be bringing in partners.”
He said Saudi Arabia would be publishing its energy strategy soon, and it was well-placed to become the cheapest producer of “green” hydrogen.