The Saudi Railway Organisation (SRO) has begun testing a section of track on the 1,486-kilometre North-South minerals railway.

The line will be used to transport phosphate and bauxite from Jelamaid, in the northern region, to processors in Ras Azzour, located near the industrial port city of Jubail.

The SRO carried out a trial run loading and unloading phosphate concentrate between Jelamaid and Ras Azzour. The mine at Jelamaid is operated by the Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden).

The railway project was financed by the Finance Ministry’s Public Investment Fund. India’s state-owned engineering and consultancy firm Rites will operate the railway when it is fully complete (MEED 29:3:10).

Passenger traffic on the route will start in 2013, with trains running through Riyadh, Sudair, Qassim, Hail and Al-Jouf.

Saudi Arabia wants to expand its transportation infrastructure as the kingdom tries to diversify its economy away from oil. The government announced in August a $384 billion development plan focusing on education, housing and transportation.