The rail link between Dammam and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia has been equipped with the most up-to-date signaling and telecommunications systems from Siemens Mobility. Rail operations started on the more than 1,000-km-long new line with this new technology in June 2009. The 449-km-long section of the line reserved for passenger service has been equipped with the European Train Control System (ETCS) and marks the first-ever use of this technology in the Arabic world.
The Saudi Arabian railway network consists of two lines that connect the port city of Dammam and the capital, Riyadh, further inland. A 556-km-line for freight traffic was built back in the 1950s, whereas the 449-km-line for passenger service was not constructed until the 1980s. The Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) transports around 850,000 passengers and 850 million metric ton-kilometers of freight per year. In December 2005, a consortium consisting of Siemens and the Saudi Arabian Nour Communications Company received an order from SRO to equip the rail link between the two cities with an automatic train protection system, a GSM Railway (GSM-R) network and a video surveillance system (CCTV) for grade crossings. The order was worth around 91 million euros.
As this order marked the first-ever use of modern automatic train protection systems for signaling-based railway operations in Saudi Arabia, the operating instructions and regulations were drawn up jointly with SRO. Not only that, this approach enabled standards for the application guidelines and codes for operation of the new railway to be drafted and implemented together with SRO.
Trainguard 100 for ETCS Level 1 is designed by Siemens and is being used as the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system. Balises have been set up along the track and a corresponding driver's cab display fitted in each locomotive. A Driver Machine Interface (DMI) provides the driver with continuous information on the permissible speed and the status of the signals on the line ahead. If the prescribed speed is not adhered to, the ATP system intervenes automatically.
Ten Simis (failsafe microcomputer system from Siemens) type electronic interlockings have been installed in order to ensure failsafe railway operations. In addition, there are fifteen CCTV-monitored Simis LC grade crossings. Locomotive drivers, maintenance personnel and station managers can use GSM-R mobile radio technology to communicate with each other throughout the entire railway network. As an improvement on the previously used walkie-talkie system, GSM-R facilitates communication of rail personnel with each other by means of conference sessions, for example, and also ensures a stable communications link that is independent of the weather.
The installed hardware has been adapted to the extreme temperature conditions in Saudi Arabia. For example, the balises have been provided with additional protection against the sun to prevent them from becoming too hot. The signal cabinets have been subjected to intensive temperature tests and designed with double walls for better protection against overheating, while the switch machines have been fitted with special housings to prevent the ingress of sand.
The control center with its four Vicos (Vehicle and Infrastructure Control and Operating System) type control consoles and panorama display wall is located in Dammam and has been equipped to be able to control the entire future railway operations in Saudi Arabia.