Transportation System in Saudi Arabia

Gulf region, with all its wealth, has become the number one place for exotic cars and any form of automobiles in general. Car enthusiasts, especially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, exist in a high number and hence it is no surprise that Saudi Arabia is home to one of the greatest road networks anywhere in the world. Since the arrival of the petrodollar, the Kingdom has launched many new development projects for the infrastructure of Saudi Arabia. This includes an extensive development of the networks of transportation which in turn has supported numerous economic developments. Hence, thus, the Kingdom can rightfully boast having an extensive network of transportation which span over several different forms of transportation.[irp]

Road Transportation in Saudi Arabia: The total area covered by roads in the Kingdom amounts to a total of 221,372 kilometers. Out of this huge amount, only 47,529 kilometers of the roads are paved, which includes 3,891 kilometers of the expressways. The roads in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can vary from a road with eight lanes, to a small two lane road in the slightly more rural areas. The most well-maintained roads in the Kingdom, however, are the city highways and the other major highways along with the roads in and around the capital city of Riyadh. These roads have been specially designed to resists the soaring temperatures and the relentless sunshine which essentially takes the roads to a fine crisp. The outer city highways, for instance, the one linking the costs together are not as well maintained as the inner-city highways however the government has started development and correction of these roads.

In October of 2013, car enthusiasts drove 2,000 kilometers around Saudi Arabia to search for the best driving road in the Kingdom. The group unanimously decided on the Taif- Al Hada highway and has rightfully given it the name of the motoring nirvana. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, unlike other countries, have strongly encouraged road transport over other methods as they have kept their oil prices down to a minimum of $0.48 per gallon or $0.13 per liter. The best and most important intercity highways in the Kingdom include;

Dammam – Abu Hadriya – Ras Tanura Highway which spans over 257 kilometers.

Khaybar – Al Ola Highway which spans over 175 kilometers.

Mecca – Madinah Al Munawarah Highway which spans over 421 kilometers.

Riyadh – Dammam Highway spanning over 383 kilometers.

Riyadh – Taif Highway which spans over 750 kilometers.

Riyadh – Sudair – Al Qasim Highway which spans over 317 kilometers.

Jeddah – Mecca Highway which spans over 80 kilometers

Jeddah – Al Leith – Jizan Highway which spans over 775 kilometers which are also the longest highway in the Kingdom.

Medina – Tabuk Highway which spans over 750 kilometers.

Taif – Abha – Jizan Highway which spans over 750 kilometers

Sea Transportation in Saudi Arabia: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has an extremely well-developed sea transport network which has been primarily developed to aid and help in the transportation of petrochemicals. The Saudi Ports Authority is the management organization of the countries ports and is responsible for overseeing all the operations and activities taking place at the ports. The location of Saudi Arabia made it a necessity for them to have a well-managed and developed sea transport network as it lies right in between the east and the west. In addition to that the availability and the huge global demand for oil, allowed Saudi Arabia to invest in their sea transport network for easy transportation.

Air Transportation in Saudi Arabia: According to the official reports, there are currently 204 airports in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Out of these a total of 71 airports have properly paved runways and around 133 airports that have unpaved runways, yet they are functional. Along with this, a total of 9 heliports exists in the country. (Obviously, this does not include those which are specifically for the Royal Family in their palaces and homes. These are only those which can be accessed by the rich non-Royals).

Railway Transportation in Saudi Arabia: Since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia lay great emphasis on road and air travel, their rail transport or railway system is not up to the mark of everything else in Saudi Arabia. The government spent little to no investment on railway system development in the past; however, this issue has been taken up by the authorities who have started developmental works. The Saudi Railways Organization or the SRO is a state-owned entity which operates and manages the rail network in Saudi Arabia. The SRO is currently providing freight trains on two main lines which total around 1000 kilometers. These lines connect Riyadh with the Persian Gulf and the Port of Dammam. The SRO passenger trains operate solely from Riyadh to Dammam and back.[irp]

Currently, there are plans which aim to extend the network of the railways from the red sea port of Jeddah right up till the border of Yemen and Jordan. There is also speculation it could go all the way up to Egypt. Along with the mainlines there is a separate large-scale railway project known as the Haramain High-Speed Rail Project currently being built in the western province. The primary aim of this new line would be to provide an alternate means of transportation to pilgrims who travel between the 3 cities. Along with railway lines, the Riyadh Metro is also being built currently and will be complete by 2017 and work on the Jeddah Metro is expected to start soon.

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Steve has been living in Saudi Arabia since 2013 and writing about Saudi rules, regulations, guides, and procedures since then.