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Russia agrees to contribute to expansion of Saudi Arabia railway network

October 14, 2019 at 3:26 pm

A train seen in Haramain high-speed rail station in Saudi Arabia’s coastal city of Jeddah [undated / صحيفة سبق / Wikimedia]

A collection of Russian and Saudi Arabian rail companies have struck an agreement to jointly work on the expansion of the Saudi railway network throughout the country, as part of President Vladimir Putin’s trip to the kingdom yesterday.

The agreement, consisting of collaboration between Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russian Railways, and the Saudi Railway Company (SAR), “aims to jointly expand the SAR network and projects related to the ‘Vision 2030’ program, as well as the supply of components for SAR,” according to the press release from RDIF.

Both countries will analyse the “potential supply of Russian systems to strengthen safety, as well as fostering transfer of knowledge from Russian railways to Saudi Railway.”

The CEO of RDIF, Kirill Dmitriev, added that the provision of technological and financial expertise from all participants “will support the accomplishment of the ambitious tasks of modernizing the existing railway network, building new transport routes, and creating additional logistics opportunities for manufacturers and railway operators…We look forward to working on the first projects in the near future.”

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Russia’s participation in and contribution to Saudi Arabia’s national railway network comes at a time when the kingdom, along with other countries in the Middle East, such as Turkey, are turning to Russia for the purchase of technological infrastructure and defence systems. Last month, Russia advised Saudi Arabia to change its air defence system and offered it the chance to purchase its S-400 missile defence system, claiming that its current Patriot system made by the United States (US) was insufficiently effective in detecting and repelling the Houthis’ recent attack on a Saudi Aramco oil facility in the south-west of the kingdom.

If Saudi Arabia were to take up Russia’s offer and acquire its missile defence system, there are concerns that the US would react negatively to the deal as it did when Turkey purchased the S-400 system. Russia’s S-300 missile defence system, a grade lower, is already currently used by numerous countries around the world as well as Syria, Iran, Egypt, and Algeria.

Russian investment into Saudi Arabia’s railway system is also part of a drive to reform and diversify the Kingdom’s economy, infrastructure, and social policies in order to achieve the goals set by the kingdom’s Vision 2030.