Interview: Rumaih Al Rumaih
What impact will the National Transformation Programme (NTP) have on the transport sector?
RUMAIH AL RUMAIH: Vision 2030 and the NTP have given Saudi Arabia a clear direction. We must diversify beyond hydrocarbons; major Vision 2030 initiative is to transform Saudi Arabia into an international logistics hub. The backbone of logistics is transport, and the Kingdom is a major trade shipping route between Asia, Africa and Europe. We want to capitalise on this by becoming a trans-shipment hub for domestic and regional markets. In 2016 Saudi Arabia’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI) was ranked 52nd by the World Bank, and our target is to rank first in the region and within the top 25 countries globally by 2030. This target will require faster Customs clearance processes, infrastructure and general road haulage. The PTA was established to regulate surface transportation – road, rail and maritime – and to ensure transport quality, safety and pricing.
What projects are expected to boost the Kingdom’s transport infrastructure capacity and efficiency?
AL RUMAIH: Saudi Arabia has an extensive road network, and our role is also to regulate transportation including haulage, buses and taxis. The private sector will play a major role in the implementation of Vision 2030, leading many new infrastructure projects. We have floated requests for interest in recent months, mostly notably in the rail sector, for projects we want to present to the private sector. Although the Land-bridge project connecting western Saudi Arabia with the rest of the country and the Gulf will take time to complete, in the short term we are working on linking the currently operational northern railway line to the existing Dammam-Riyadh line to connect standalone networks and create an integrated, comprehensive system. We are also scoring when it comes to increasing the capacity of our Riyadh dry port from 400,000 to 1m containers annually through efficiency improvements, as well as increasing the number of logistics hubs and warehouses, facilitating import-export business. This has already been enhanced through the introduction of soft improvements and process automation by private logistics companies. These projects could be tendered in different ways, including operate and manage, build-operate-transfer or public-private partnerships.
How are digital platforms monitoring the efficiency of road transport procedures and services?
AL RUMAIH: In the past national by-laws were weak, and poor monitoring has allowed unregistered companies to enter the industry and deliver poor services. PTA is now capable of monitoring and regulating road transport by connecting all related government agencies into two newly launched digital platforms, Wasel and Naqal. The latter ensures that administrative requests, including new registration licenses, can be delivered online and with no need for businesses to approach single entities. In connection with the National Information Centre at the Ministry of Interior, Wasel monitors the enforcement of regulations by registered companies, their adherence to safety and quality standards and will notify or block non-compliant companies.
As Saudi Arabia needs efficient taxi services, we have licensed companies such as Uber, Careem and Easy Taxi. We can monitor them digitally and in real-time via our e-platforms and ultimately ensure high vehicles standards, service quality and employment opportunities. PTA announced in September 2017 that more than 220,000 Saudis joined this business through 23 licensed companies. Thanks to our digital platforms we are also monitoring the launch of several initiatives to improve road safety. For example, automatic vehicle location systems, enabling the monitoring of both the location and weight of vehicles in the Kingdom, are being made mandatory in the haulage sector. We are also launching a huge campaign concerning safety barriers for trucks, to ensure a safer transit environment for the more than 900,000 trucks operating across the Kingdom.
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