Saudi Railway Company (SAR) has transported 4.06 million tons of phosphate and bauxite between January and June 2017, an increase of 27 per cent compared to the same period in 2016.

This brings the overall total of the minerals transported by the trains to 23.68 million tons from May 2011, when the service commenced, to June 2017, SAR chief executive Bashar bin Khaled al-Malik said in a statement.

SAR started transporting molten sulfur from the Eastern Province city of Waset to Waad al-Shamal in the north last May after successfully connecting the route to its railway network.

The company also started transporting commercial phosphoric acid from Waad al-Shamal to Saudi Arabian Mining Company’s (Maaden’s)  refinery in Ras al-Khair on the Gulf coast last June.

SAR said it aims to increase the transportation rates to and from Waad al-Shamal in compliance with Maaden’s requirements.

SAR’s mineral trains carry an average of 16,000 tons of goods each trip, which the company says is equivalent to taking 640 trucks off the road.

The passenger line of the North-South Railway, which currently operates between Riyadh and Qassim but will eventually run all the way to Qurayyat near the Jordanian border, is expected to carry an average of 1,100 passengers a day by the end of this year.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Transport Authority (PTA) has recently launched the privatisation of its railways by inviting companies to express interest in private sector partnerships for passenger and freight train services in the kingdom.

The main areas for which the PTA is seeking private sector participation are: For the operation of freight and passenger services; management and maintenance of passenger stations; management and maintenance of dry ports; and the maintenance of rolling stock.

The existing assets that the solicitation of interest covers are the Riyadh to Dammam lines and the North-South Railway. It could also include the operation of future projects such as the GCC rail network, the Landbridge, and other smaller sections of railway planned within the kingdom.