DAMMAM — The derailed train that left more than 35 passengers injured has residents of the Kingdom afraid to use trains as a means of transport. Mass cancellations were reported by both citizens and expatriates who said they found an alternate way to travel between Riyadh and Dammam.
On Wednesday, a train traveling along the country’s only passenger rail link, derailed 70 km east of Riyadh. 332 passengers were on board. The rail link is some 400 km long and connects Dammam to the capital.
Many people are opting to use unofficial taxis, locally known as Kadada, as they believe it is the best and safest way to travel between the country’s Eastern and Central regions.
Long lines were reported at the Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO) station in Dammam and buses to Riyadh were reportedly running at full capacity. Similar crowds were seen at the city’s main taxi stand. Kadada drivers said they were doing good business due to the train accident.
Muhammad Al-Otaibi said that he canceled his reservation to Riyadh and he chose to travel using a SAPTCO bus.
“Although Kadada drivers drive at high speeds, they are safer than riding a train. For many years we complained about the old trains and the lack of safety measures. Every day we hear about an accident happening on this old track,” said Al-Otaibi.
Others echoed Al-Otaibi’s sentiments and said they fear riding on the aging and poorly-maintained train. They all said the railway tracks on the Dammam-Riyadh rail link are old and rusty and they fear future accidents unless the tracks are replaced.
Ali Al-Shehri, speaking to a local daily, said that officials should review the overall performance of the railway. “The trains are super old. The Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) has the ability to improve their performance and update services and trains. I canceled my reservation because it is becoming too risky to travel on this train. All of the SRO’s trains lack safety measures and officials at the organization are responsible for what happened.”
45-year-old expat Nawal Mustapha, was with her sister in the train when the accident occurred. She described complete chaos when the train’s locomotive and three carriages derailed and turned over.
“The accident happened quickly as the carriage overturned. Rescue workers were trying to evacuate the passengers and transport them into another emergency train and then to the hospital. We were asleep and woke up to a loud noise and the carriage overturning. There was chaos everywhere, I could only think about my daughter.” — SG