The region’s new rail networks will need a workforce of more than 100,000 people over the next five years.

“[Around] 108,000 staff need to be recruited and trained over next five years. That’s 20,000 people a year, that gives you an idea of the scale of the challenge,” said Andrew Russell, member of the board of directors, IR Academy and managing director of the UK’s RTI, speaking at MEED’s Mena Rail & Metro Summit on 29 October.

To help develop talent in the region, the Saudi Company for Railway Services is setting up a training facility in Riyadh for Saudi Arabia and the broader region in 2012. The facility is available to train government and private sector employees working in the rail sector.

Other companies are also developing training facilities to help develop expertise. US-based Bechtel, which is leading one of the consortiums building Riyadh Metro, has established a centre of excellence for rail in Dubai. Canada’s Bombardier Transportation, which is also working on Riyadh Metro, has set up a project management academy in Saudi Arabia to support its work on rail projects in the kingdom.

“Training young local people will create a strong rail industry in the future,” said Philippe Casgrain, vice-president, EMEA systems division, Bombardier Transportation.