Transport in Saudi Arabia

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With the arrival of petrodollars, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has initiated many mega infrastructure development projects in the country, and the extensive development of the transportation network has followed suit in support of various economic developments. As a result, the country now boasts an extensive transportation network.

Road transportation[edit]

Riyadh-Mecca Road near Tuwaiq Escarpment in November 2006
Highway 60 passing through the Hijaz Mountains' Range near Ta'if

Total: 221,372 km (137,554 mi)
Paved: 47,529 km (29,533 mi) (includes 3,891 km (2,418 mi) of expressways)
Unpaved: 173,843 km (108,021 mi) (as of 2006)

Roads in Saudi Arabia vary from eight-laned roads to small two-lane roads in rural areas. The city highways and other major highways are well maintained, especially the roads in the capital Riyadh. The roads have been constructed to resist the consistently high temperatures and do not reflect the strong sunshine. The other city highways such as the one linking coast to coast are not as great as the inner-city highways but the government is now working on rebuilding those roads. In October 2013, a group of auto enthusiasts drove some 2,000 km (1,200 mi) through Saudi Arabia in search of the best driving road, and named the Jeddah-Taif-Al-Hada highway as "motoring nirvana".[1]

Saudi Arabia had encouraged road transport in the past as had it maintained one of the lowest petrol prices in the world, at $0.13 per litre. In 2018, this price was raised to about $0.54 per litre, which is still not that high global-wise but definitely the highest it had ever been in the oil producing kingdom.[2] It is worth noting that due to limited alternative passenger transport options in the country, the gasoline fuel demand is relatively inelastic to its prices;[3] light-duty vehicles dominate the passenger transport landscape. Buses and other public transport options are limited, and walking or bicycles are hindered by the sprawling city landscapes and harsh weather in most regions of the country.

Some of the important inter-city highways include the following:[4][5]

On 19 February 2018, it was announced that four of the main Saudi motorways that allow for high speed will grant a speed limit increase to users from 120 kmph to 140 kmph. Those motorways are (Mecca-Medina), (Riyadh-Dammam), (Riyadh-Gassim) and finally (Riyadh-Taif).[6]

Sea transportation[edit]

Saudi Arabia has a well development sea transport network developed primarily to support the transport of petrochemicals. Saudi Ports Authority is the ports management organization in the country, overseeing the operations. The largest seaport in Saudi Arabia located on the Red Sea. This port makes 80% of maritime flow.[7]

The major ports in the country are as follows;

Persian Gulf[edit]

Red Sea[edit]

Air transportation[edit]

There are an estimated 203 airports in Saudi Arabia (2003 est.).

Airports with paved runways[edit]

total: 61
over 3,047 m: 32
2,438 to 3,047 m: 13
1,524 to 2,437 m: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 2 (2003 est.)

Airports with unpaved runways[edit]

total: 133
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 75
914 to 1,523 m: 38
under 914 m: 14 (2003 est.)


9 (2009 est.)

Commercial Helicopter[edit]

In 2019, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) launched the first commercial helicopter that will serve to transport customers within the major Saudi cities and to take them to different tourism destinations.[8]

Rail transport[edit]

Rail transport map of Saudi Arabia.

Although the long-abandoned Hejaz railway had been built during the Ottoman occupation, the first railway to be built in modern Saudi Arabia was the Riyadh-Dammam railway. It was launched by King Abdulaziz in 1951. In 2018, the railway transported 1.8 million passengers and 700,000 goods. Currently, the railway is planned to undergo further development.[9]

As a result of over-reliance on road and air travel, rail transport has not received a similar level of investment in Saudi Arabia. However, there are now plans for expansion within the kingdom's railway infrastructure. The length of the new railway is 1,500 km.[10] Some of these plans are:

  • The Saudi Landbridge Project is a project that aims to link the port cities of Jeddah, Dammam, and Jubail. It will also pass through Riyadh and serve its dry port. The line linking Riyadh and Jeddah is planned to be approximately 950 km (590 mi) long, whilst the line connecting the two cities of Dammam and Jubail should be around 150 km (93 mi).[11]
  • The Haramain High Speed Rail Project (HHR) underway in the Western province, connecting Makkah, Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City and Madinah city with a 453 km (281 mi) long railway line. This semi-electric passenger double line will be created to transport the large number of Hajj pilgrims, which the SRO considers transportation for, an urgent matter. It will be up and running by May 2018.[12] By 2019, the railway has been working in almost full capacity with the speed of 300 km/hour.[13]
  • The Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro Southern Line is part of the Makkah Metro rail transit system, which was developed in Makkah city. This is a 18.1 kilometers (11.2 miles) track developed as exclusive shuttle a predicted 8 million pilgrims between Mecca, Mount Arafat, Muzdalifa and Mina.
  • The Riyadh Metro is a 6 line rapid transit system under construction in the capital. As of April 2018, it is 71% completed. It is scheduled for a soft opening in 2019, the full network is expected to be fully operational by 2021.


  1. ^ "McLaren 12C. Saudi Arabia. The Hidden Kingdom -". 21 October 2013.
  2. ^ "Saudi Gazette".
  3. ^ Algunaibet, Ibrahim, Walid Matar (2017). "The responsiveness of fuel demand to gasoline price change in passenger transport: a case study of Saudi Arabia". doi:10.1007/s12053-018-9628-6.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Saudi inter-city highways
  5. ^, Hadi Bahra;HDC- Horizon for Commercial Development Co.,Ltd. "THE ROADS AND PORTS SECTORS IN THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA". Archived from the original on 2015-01-08. Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  6. ^ "Arab News".[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Why Saudi Arabia". Invest Saudi. Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  8. ^ "Saudi Public Investment Fund launches Kingdom's first commercial helicopter operator". Arab News. 2019-03-11. Retrieved 2019-03-12.
  9. ^ "How Saudi Arabia is improving its railways". Arab News. 2019-03-04. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  10. ^ "Transport and Logistics - Sectors & Opportunities". Invest Saudi. Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  11. ^ "Landbridge Project", Saudi Railways Organization. Retrieved on 17 August 2017
  12. ^ "[Haramain] Project Brief", Saudi Railways Organization. Retrieved on 17 August 2017.
  13. ^ "How Saudi Arabia is improving its railways". Arab News. 2019-03-04. Retrieved 2019-03-04.

External links[edit]