THE second round of recruitment aiming to attract more women to become drivers on the Haramain High-Speed Railway has seen 38,000 candidates apply for the 35 places that are now on offer at the Saudi Railway Polytechnic (SRP).

SRP is the local training partner to Spanish national operator Renfe, whose Saudi Arabian subsidiary Renfe KSA is the lead partner in the consortium operating the 453km Haramain high-speed line between Mecca and Medina.

The first round of recruitment in 2022 saw 28,000 women apply, with 14,000 selected to sit an examination in person at SRP in Qassim. A total of 34 were selected for the driver training programme, becoming the first female train drivers in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

Applicants must be Saudi nationals aged between 22 and 30, and the necessary academic qualifications include a knowledge of English to the required standard.

Driver training will start next month and combines 483 hours of technical instruction with 674 hours of practical training. Successful candidates are issued with a train driving licence upon completion of the course.

Renfe KSA has also trained over 800 Saudi nationals for customer service roles at stations and onboard trains, and for positions in ticket sales and operations. Renfe says that over a third of its staff in Saudi Arabia are now women, making it a pioneer for gender equality.

“SRP’s work with Renfe has been of great value, contributing directly to meeting the objectives of Vision 2030 and training young Saudi citizens to contribute to the management, operation and maintenance of the Saudi railway industry,” says a testimonial presented to Renfe by the minister of transport.