The Saudi Railways Commission (SRC) is making progress with the issuing of operating licences and safety certificates for a number of Saudi Arabian railways.

The lines still pending licences include the North-South mineral railway operated by Saudi Railway Company (SAR) and mainline connections operated by the Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO).

The Medina metro and the Haramain High-Speed Railway are also awaiting licence awards.  

“We are progressing with licensing and certifying mainline railways,” says Thomas Edwards, chief adviser for safety regulation, accident investigation and interoperability at the SRC, speaking at the Middle East Rail Network club meeting held in Dubai in late November. The Rail Network Club is an organisation founded by UK firms Ashurst, Atkins, Invensys and Serco, Australia’s Austrak and Germany’s TUV Rheinland.

The next set of safety and operation licences to be issued are expected to be awarded to SAR’s North-South mineral line. This line links the phosphate and bauxite mines in Al-Jalamid and Baitha with industrial plants in Ras al-Khair, Jubail and Dammam.

Earlier this year, German technical services provider TUV Rheinland was granted the contract as an Independent Competent Person (ICP) for the North-South railway. The role involves providing evidence to the SRC that the North-South line is safe to operate. The ICP remains totally independent of SAR and the contract is limited to 1,472 kilometres of rail line between Al-Jalamid and Ras al-Khair.

Edwards tells MEED that he is hoping [the licences] will be awarded in the early part of next year.

TUV Rheinland has been working closely with the SRC in certifying railways in the kingdom. Last year, it worked on the Al-Mashaar metro project ensuring the rail line was granted safety and operation licences.

A safety certificate and operation licence was also issued by the SRC in September for the women-only Princess Noura University automated people mover. The licence covers the automated operation of an on-campus metro used to transport students within the university complex.  

The SRC was established in 2008 and was charged with ensuring the safe and efficient operation of Saudi Arabia’s railways and issuing licences to those firms that adhere to regulations.

In April, the Saudi cabinet approved a railway transport law that set out legal requirements all railways must adhere to. The aim of the legislation is aimed at speeding up the expansion of the country’s railway projects. The law is on the statute books, but is not set to be fully enforceable until the end of January 2013.