RIYADH: ABDUL HANNAN TAGO & ALVIN RELOXWednesday 8 May 2013
The driverless metro rail, to be operated by a team of only Saudi women inside the women’s school at Princess Nora bint Abdurahman University (PNU) in Riyadh, will start functioning in September.
The project belongs to Saudi Railway Company (SAR) and has a contract value of around $ 150 million (SR 563 million), said Eduardo La Ficara, the commercial manager for Ansaldo STS, a multinational technology company that produces signaling and automation systems for railways. He said his company trained more than 55 women in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“They are certified and professional female drivers,” he said. The women however will not be driving the metro.
La Ficara talked to Arab News on the sideline of the fourth annual summit on Middle East Rail Opportunities that kicked off in Riyadh. The event highlights the rail infrastructure across the Kingdom based on case studies of successful railway networks.
“Over the last decade, the Middle East has seen a substantial increase in the number of established rail projects,” said Business Director of Fleming Gulf Conferences, Rameem Mohammed.
He said the GCC has invested several billions of dollars to construct a railway line connecting major countries across the region. Saudi Arabia is constructing a speed line, a monorail, the North-South railway project and there are many others in the pipeline.
Abdullah Balhaddad, vice president of the Railway Land Bridge Project Steering Committee from Saudi Railways Organization highlighted in his opening speech the importance of safety at a time when the GCC countries are embarking on the construction of their railways in a challenging Gulf environment.
Abdullah Almotawa, director at Arriyadh Development Authority, addressed the participants on metro networks across the Kingdom and their economic feasibility.
Rabii Ouadi of Huawei Technologies, head of business development, dwelt on innovative ICT Solutions for Saudi Railway Projects.
With the rapid development of railway transport, simple voice and constraint data services couldn’t satisfy the high-speed data requirement both from train operators and passengers, he said.
For train operators, a more efficient way to guarantee train operational safety and on-board security is becoming more and more important. Services such as on-board broadband video service are beyond the reach of GSM-R, an international wireless communications standard for railway communication. “They are readily available on a solution Huawei provides,” he observed.
He pointed out that for the passengers, many people are enthusiastic about using mobile broadband services while on the move with laptops, mobile phones and cloud computing devices.
The first day of the summit was chaired by Shahid Khan from the Saudi Bin Laden Group. Other speakers on this day included Liu Gang, director for the International Business Division at CNR Changchun Railway Vehicles Co. Ltd (CNRCRC) in China, Hamad Bin Yousef of Saudi Railway Company and John Thomas and Ahmed Al-Musawa Al Hashemi from Etihad Rail.
Railway technology solution providers Vossoloh and Parsons will attend the event.