All images on this page © Saudia Railways Organisation; Saudi Arabian Railways Company; Haramain High Speed Railway unless stated.
Railways in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are very new. Two major lines of world-class standard have been completed just since 2015, while the oldest dates only from 1981. KSA can also claim one of the world’s busiest metro lines, although it only operates for 7 days every year!
As the network has expanded rapidly in recent years, so the organisations that operate the railways have changed too. While the operations of the 3 routes remains impressive, the digital communications are somewhat fragmented and surprisingly patchy. Crucially, there is no central digital presence for the railways of Saudi Arabia, such as a national website or app. This tends to cause confusion where some users can’t find the stations they need to travel from.
The 3 routes are:
There does seem to be a policy to centralise the 3 railways operationally and digitally on a single brand and platforms but this has not yet happened, perhaps because of institutional resistance. SRO is the original railway organisation in the Kingdom, dating from 1966. It runs the 1981 diesel lines to Dammam on the Gulf coast. SAR is the upstart founded in 2006 to build and operate the electrified northern line to Hail. The Wikipedia entries reflect the institutional divide.
Start here for a brief overview: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_in_Saudi_Arabia#Rail_transport (Only up to 2014), then:
It makes sense to organise this post using the twelve criteria for the Digital Communications Index but to distinguish between the activities of each operator in each section. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, SAR scores 9/12; HHR scores 8/12; and SRO scores an interim 2/12 until it can be rated properly.
SAR: Yes, so score 1 point. The app seems to work fine though it has mixed reviews for both Android and Apple versions, and the same score of 3.3 for both. Users are confused they can’t find the Haramain stations on this app, because it only covers the SAR operations from Riyadh to Hail.
The point of this question is to see whether the organisation ‘curates’ its videos and enables them to be shared, embedded, and seen in context. SAR and HHR both have good (short) videos covering aspects of their operations but, as they’re mostly on Facebook, I won’t give them points in this section.
SAR: No. There are 14 good videos on the SAR Facebook/video page. This is a thorough explainer video for the whole journey from Riyadh to Qassim:
HHR: No. There are very 12 videos on the HHR website and 15 on the HHR Facebook page. All are very short under 1 minute. This video by Spanish contractor RENFE is the best explainer for the project:
SRO: No. However there is a good recent video explaining SRO’s history here:
All three railways run strong campaigns separately, and have also joined forces during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic to run joint public health campaigns.
Saudi Arabia has brand-new world-class railways and has a great set of digital communications to help explain them and help travellers to choose them over other methods of transport. Until SRO’s website returns the interim totals are as follows: