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H.E. Rumaih M. Al-Rumaih

SAUDI ARABIA - Transport

Saudi Red Sea ports to be overhauled ahead of conclusion of Vision 2030

President, Public Transport Authority

Bio

H.E. Dr. Rumaih Mohammed Al-Rumaih is has worked in both the public and private sectors, including research, education, and transportation. He was instrumental in the development of policies and strategies within the Government Transport Sector. Prior to that he held the position of CEO of the Saudi Railway Company (SAR) for over five years. He has an MBA in Finance from the University of Leicester in the UK, and a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Colorado in Boulder, US.

"The goal for the end of 2017 is to identify the proper industry players."

What will be the role of the Public Transport Authority in Saudi Arabia’s rapidly evolving transport sector?

The Public Transport Authority was established in 2012. At the time it was formed it was only responsible for managing public transport, meaning mass transit and transporting people. Last year in March there was a decision to merge the Public Transport Authority with the Railway Commission, a move that significantly expanded the agency’s portfolio. The goal was to merge these two entities plus move the regulation of transport goods and marine regulation from the Ministry of Transport to this authority. You can see from that change that this is a significant shift within the sector, and one that conforms with other government restructurings to provide more independence and a clearer structure. The Public Transport Authority is responsible for regulating three sectors: railway, land transport, and maritime transport. It is totally independent. The authority does not own or operate projects; it just regulates. I was appointed President at the end of October last year. At the start we revisited our structure and started recruiting and building the team to regulate. Our aim is to have a solid, well-regulated industry that is inviting for local and foreign investment. We are after a few things; we need to make sure the service provided is safe, well priced, and high quality. To achieve these goals and targets we have started to make a few changes. A few key things are Saudization and localization—not only localized in terms of labor but also localized in terms of the industry itself. We are importing many cars and need to make sure we are at least manufacturing the spare parts.

What key regulations and changes indicate your new direction?

It is no secret that if we do not have a regulated industry we will be doomed to end up with a mess. In Saudi Arabia, there are more than 1 million trucks and unless we regulate this fleet we will face problems. A government company has developed a platform for us called Wassal, meaning connecting point A to B. The role of this platform is to bring in licensed service providers to one stage. This platform will centralize the weight of the truck, the hours the driver has driven, and his record, and will include dispatchers and other stakeholders in the sector. With that technological leap we can solve many problems at once. With this we will be able to improve the service and reduce accidents. In addition, we have been regulating and working with a company called Takum, a government company under the Ministry of the Interior. It is in charge of fining and enforcing all transport laws. We are assisting it on the ground to ensure that the taxi drivers are licensed and that taxis have the right safety equipment. Our role in maritime is making sure everyone is following international agreements and adhering to them for safety, environmental, and other regulatory requirements. When it comes to railway, a lot is happening.

What is the future of the Saudi land bridge project?

Part of the Vision 2030 is for Saudi Arabia to become an international logistics hub. Saudi Arabia is a large country, the size of half of Western Europe. We need to have proper ports that can accommodate the expansion. The ports that we need to develop most are on the Red Sea. Approximately one-third of the world’s traffic moves through the Red Sea via the Suez Canal. The land bridge is a key part of the success of our ports. It will be freight oriented. We have finalized the environment and which ports it will be connected to. We will tender it to the private sector.

The Haramain-High Speed Rail project is on track to begin limited operations later this year. Will it be profitable to operate in the medium term?

The goal is that this project is sustainable so the ticket price is not decided yet. We need to have reasonable prices for people to be able to afford and use it but also to make sure we are profitable and managing costs. We are studying the tariff and the costs of all the trips between destinations. This project will be able to pay for itself with the tickets and the real estate around it.

What are the major things you hope to accomplish in 2017?

I think 2017 is the year when we want to make sure we have commercially committed partners, not hit and run investors. The goal for the end of 2017 is to identify the proper industry players. We will support the committed ones. When it comes to safety we will be addressing many key issues on barriers and other issues that make our roads some of the most deadly. In 2017 we need to make sure we improve the safety of our transportation. Of course, we also need to make sure that we are providing enough job opportunities to Saudis. We have already started by requiring service providers such as Uber and Careem drivers to be Saudi. This country is young and many Saudis are looking for jobs.

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