(MENAFN - Arab News) The growth and development of the Kingdom's railway network was the focus of yesterday's agenda of the two-day Kingdom Mass Transit Summit, organized by leading French business information company naseba, which opened Saturday at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Riyadh.
In the first quarter of 2012, Saudi Arabia signed three contracts worth SR2.3 billion (613 million) for the construction of maintenance service buildings and five stations to support its longest railway, the North South Railway. Many more contracts are expected to be signed, leading to an increasingly connected Kingdom.
In the opening keynote, Hammad bin Yousef, civil and track engineer at the Saudi Railway Company, spoke of the opportunities in the Kingdom's megaprojects and developments and offered an overview of Saudi Arabia's rail programs and accomplishments.
Highlighted future projects included the Saudi Landbridge Project, an internal Jubail network of 120 km railway to link the country's two industrial hubs of Dammam and Jubail, and the creation of rail branches necessary for the North South Railway. Each project was considered amidst an overarching analysis of the Kingdom's vision and strategy for rail developments. Yousef also described the private sector's place in developing the country's rail networks.
The Saudi Consolidated Contracting Company's (SCCC) high-speed rail project will be of utmost importance to the Kingdom's transport future.
On his part, Bassam Boustany, associate head of the transport department at the SCCC, encouraged attendees to think in the long term for their transport projects, noting, "When we improve service, we lower the cost of doing business."
The summit then addressed the need for innovation in the railway sector. Oliver Plunkett, country director for Saudi Arabia at Buro Happold, led a keynote that studied the need for 21st century railway stations for a post-car city, examining a station's needs and integrated solutions to complex challenges in usability, operability, quality and value.
The summit concluded with a panel discussion on sustainability in future railway projects between industry pioneers Atul Agarwal, senior transport specialist at the World Bank; Abdul Rahman Al-Motrif, director SMART campuses and building projects at the Ministry of Higher Education; and Syed Ehtesham Husain, head of engineering at Al Latifia Trading and Contracting. The panel concluded with all participants agreeing on the need to focus on sustainability in order to continuously improve the effectiveness of a transport system.