By P K Abdul Ghafour
JEDDAH – Businessmen and officials have welcomed the Saudi Railway Organization’s (SRO) plan to establish a 660-km coastal railway line between Jeddah and Jazan, saying it would boost the two regions’ economic, commercial and social development.
The SRO recently signed a contract with an engineering consultancy firm to conduct a feasibility study on the project, including its cost, number of passengers, and amount of cargo to be transported.
The firm has completed the first phase of its study, which has taken into consideration the railway line’s designs. The new line will be established parallel to the international coastal highway that serves many major roads and the Jazan Economic City.
Mohammed bin Khaled Al-Suwaiket, SRO’s chief, said the plan is to expand the Kingdom’s railway network. “We have drafted a strategic plan for railway expansion spanning 9,900 km and 19 railway lines,” he said.
He said the dual line between Jeddah and southern Jazan would pass Shuaiba, Al-Laith, Madhleef, Qunfudah, Amq, Barak, Qahma, Shuqaiq and Sabya. It would be linked with the landbridge project that connects Riyadh with the Red Sea port city.
Ali bin Mohammed Al-Garni, chairman of Qunfudah Municipal Council, said Saudis have been looking forward to this strategic project for a long time. “It will not only boost economic and industrial development of cities linked by the railway but also cut down on road accidents.”
Shaikh Mohammed Rafik, chairman of Gammon Group, which is developing an industrial city in Jazan, said the new railway would encourage more foreign companies to invest in the industrial city, which is expected to draw investment worth SR75 billion and create 100,000 jobs.
“The industrial city will spur Jazan’s economic growth and bring about a face-lift for the region,” said Rafik. “We are now in the process of signing agreements with prominent companies from Canada, China, India, South Africa and Malaysia,” he said.
According to a study, the number of passengers on this route will increase from 1.13 million to 1.95 million by 2025 while cargo flow will jump from 1.8 million to 3.19 million tons.
Emad Al-Subhi, chairman of Al-Laith Municipal Council, stressed the railway’s role in accelerating economic and commercial growth, and providing safe public transport services.
“The project reflects the government’s long-term vision,” said Abdul Rahman Halawani, a Saudi businessman. “We hope the governors of Makkah and Jazan make this dream a reality to accelerate growth,” he said.
Abdullah Hubaily, a member of the Tourism Development Committee, described the railway as the best transport mode for a vast country such as Saudi Arabia. “Infrastructure projects such as railways will attract foreign capital and promote tourism.” — Arab News