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Sustainable Transportation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s strong economy heavily relies on the petroleum industry, contributing to budget revenues, GDP, and export earnings. The strategic location of Saudi Arabia positions it as a potential hub connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa, making transportation a crucial aspect of its development. The emphasis on road transportation in Saudi Arabia has led to increased energy consumption and car ownership, resulting in challenges such as traffic congestion, accidents, pollution, and changes in land use.

Shifting to Sustainable Public Transportation Modes

Promoting a shift from private car ownership to sustainable public transportation modes is vital to address these challenges and promote a more efficient and environmentally friendly transportation system. Saudi Arabia has made significant investments in various transportation modes, including air travel, sea transport, and rail systems, to accommodate the growing population and demand for transportation. Sustainable transportation planning is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution, and high road traffic accidents in Saudi Arabia.

Investing in public transportation systems, such as buses and taxis, is crucial to provide viable alternatives to private car usage and alleviate traffic congestion. Expanding airports and ports in Saudi Arabia facilitates international and domestic trade, supporting economic growth and development. Developing a comprehensive rail network connecting major cities and regions within Saudi Arabia can provide a sustainable mode of transport, reducing traffic problems and promoting safer roads.

Aligning with Saudi Vision 2030 for Sustainable Transportation

The transition to sustainable transportation systems aligns with Saudi Arabia’s vision for the future, including the Saudi Vision 2030 plan, which aims to diversify the economy and improve the quality of life through various initiatives, including transportation improvements.

Transportation Modes in Saudi Arabia

Transportation in Saudi Arabia accounts for approximately 20% of household expenditures, making it the second-largest expense after housing. Studies conducted in the USA and Europe indicate that transportation typically represents 15% to 25% of total expenditure.

Transportation is the second-highest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution in Saudi Arabia. Transportation is also the leading cause of death in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has substantially invested in modern transportation projects, including roads, air travel, sea transport, and rail systems. The progress made in each transportation mode has both advantages and disadvantages. The country’s transportation choices impact its development plans and pose various challenges.

Future transportation planning in Saudi Arabia should consider sustainability and the need for more efficient and environmentally friendly modes of transport.

Air Transportation

Saudi Arabia has significantly invested in constructing 23 airports in the past three decades to accommodate the increasing number of passengers.

Recent years have witnessed the construction of five new airports, including Amaala and the upcoming Neom airport. The total number of airports in Saudi Arabia has reached 28, with four international airports recently expanding, bringing the total to eight.

The expansion and construction of airports contribute to the country’s transportation infrastructure and logistics network.

Establishing multiple domestic airports facilitates interconnection among different regions within Saudi Arabia.

Sea Transportation

The expansion of sea transportation in Saudi Arabia has primarily arisen from the demand for oil and petrochemical transportation. Saudi Arabia has developed ten major ports along the Gulf and the Red Sea, serving as vital catalysts for economic growth and development.

The Jeddah Islamic Port on the Red Sea is the busiest in Saudi Arabia, handling approximately 70% of the country’s import and export activities. The Jeddah Islamic Port has the capacity to accommodate diverse cargo types, with an overall capacity of 130 million tons across five terminals.

The King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam, situated in the Gulf region, holds the title of the largest and busiest port in the Arab Gulf and the second busiest in the Middle East and Africa combined. The King Abdulaziz Port is a prominent center for maritime science and technology training and facilitates ship repair, re-exporting, and warehousing activities.

Road Transportation

Saudi Arabia has made significant investments in constructing an extensive road network over the past three decades, totaling 700,000 kilometers. The focus must shift from constructing new roads to maintaining the existing network to ensure high-quality transportation.

Car ownership has become the dominant mode of transportation in Saudi Arabia due to factors such as high income, low fuel prices, cultural preferences, and limited alternatives. The public bus transportation system in Saudi Arabia is limited, with only one company, SAPTCO, operating a fleet of over 5,000 buses.

Challenges in Saudi Arabia’s road transportation system include air pollution, noise pollution, and many road traffic accidents.

Road traffic accidents remain the leading cause of death in Saudi Arabia, with an average of 27 daily fatalities.

Rail Transportation

Rail transportation in Saudi Arabia has a rich history, dating back to the completion of the Hejaz railway in 1908. Major rail projects began in the 21st century, including the North-South rail line, Haramain high-speed railway, Landbridge railway, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) railway.

The objective is to establish an extensive railway network connecting all regions and major cities in Saudi Arabia and linking the country with other Gulf countries.

Investments in sustainable and eco-friendly rail systems will help combat pollution and decrease road accidents.

Challenges and Opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s Transportation

Air transportation: Additional international airports are required. Exploit Saudi Arabia’s strategic location. Construct two new airports, one in the north and one in the south.

Sea transportation: Upgrade existing ports to handle future import/export growth. Enhance connectivity between the Gulf and Red Sea. Facilitate ship connections from east to west and cater to Gulf and Red Sea passengers.

Road transportation: Roads need repair, limited public transit, high accident rates, and environmental pollution. Invest in public road infrastructure. Align with Vision 2030, employ advanced techniques, and embrace renewable energy in road maintenance and construction.

Rail transportation: Complete planned railway projects. Establish a sustainable mode of transport for Saudi Arabia. Develop railways to connect east-west and north-south regions, alleviating traffic issues.

The absence of an efficient public transportation system and heavy reliance on private cars contribute to traffic congestion, environmental issues, and high-traffic accidents.

Increased investment in bus and taxi public transportation is crucial to address these challenges.
Advancements in the railway system are considered the most sustainable mode of transport for Saudi Arabia’s unique conditions.

Improvements in sea and air transportation are necessary to position the country as a hub connecting Eastern and Western regions.