What synergies do you strive for within the rail, land transport, and maritime sectors?
Under the Vision 2030 objectives to become the number-one logistic hub in the region, it is essential that our transportation divisions are aligned. For this, transportation must become more integrated and efficient. Logistics are beyond transportation; however, they also play a major role. Another key component of our operations is strategy, development, and planning. That is also to reinforce intermodality between the three modes of transport. If we have a train station, we need to make sure it can be connected to a bus, taxi, and metro. We need to plan accordingly to make sure the journeys are as smooth as possible for people and goods. Internationally, these modes are often regulated independently, though we can achieve the highest level of integration through our structure.
An important test case for integration is the Riyadh Metro. Could you tell us more about the role TGA plays in this?
The Riyadh Metro will have 84 stations and is already integrated with various train stations. We have a logistics strategy put together by the logistics committee and headed by the Minister of Transport, which includes TGA, Saudi Customs, and various other entities. Because we are under its umbrella, we made sure this strategy is as coherent as possible. One of the more important components in the strategy is to make sure all systems are compatible with one another. People sometimes overlook this in the short term, and because of the greenfield nature of this project, we are able to overcome these challenges and integrate them from the beginning.
The Haramain High-Speed Railway opened a year ago. How would you evaluate its performance?
The Haramain High-Speed Rail is the fastest and largest high-speed railway in the region. The line connects the two most important cities for Muslims in the world, and since we started operations in 2018, there has been extremely high demand. What makes it different from other high-speed lines is that demand is symmetric; demand in Medina is the same as in Mecca as people travel back and forth. It is generally difficult to pioneer such projects, though we saw demand coming immediately and are now considering other projects. We aim to eventually connect Medina to the central region and then to Riyadh with a high-speed line.
How are you incorporating technology and innovation to make operations safer and more efficient?
Because Saudi Arabia is so large and it is difficult to physically monitor transportation, we are focusing heavily on technology. The main objective is to ensure everything that moves abides by the rules and regulations. We have built and implemented four new platforms: Wasl, which is Arabic for connection and functions as a tracking platform; Bayan for cargo and goods tracking; Naql for licensing; and Hafilat for bus transport. On the back end, we are connected to other relevant government entities, including customs and the Ministry of Interior. On the front end, we are tracking all the trucks we regulate. Truck owners have to install tracking technology and weight sensors. Our requirements stipulate that drivers must take a rest every four hours, and if they do not stop and rest for 45 minutes, we will fine them. The idea is to use technology to make business easier and more efficient. The Logistics Performance Index measures the capabilities of a country in logistics. We use these measurements to ensure we provide the proper services to people in manufacturing, retail, and transshipment. We do the same thing for trucks, buses, taxis, and everything else we regulate. That includes regulations for ride-hailing applications like Uber and Careem, for which we authorize and monitor the drivers as well.