SAUDI Arabia is celebrating the start of work by 34 female train drivers on the Haramain high-speed line between Mecca and Medina.

More than 28,000 women applied for the roles when they were made public. Of these, 14,000 applicants completed the first phase of the selection process and underwent an on-site examination at the Saudi Railway Polytechnic in Qassim.

The initiative is the ninth to recruit local Saudi train drivers for the high-speed line, which entered service in October 2018. The training programme, which commenced in March 2022, included theoretical and practical modules of 1157 hours, covering basic railway concepts, infrastructure and signalling knowledge, traffic and safety regulations, and technical aspects of the train among other topics.

Practical training, which comprised 674 hours of driving monitored by Renfe supervisors, began in August.

Of the 34 recruits, six were already part of the Renfe KSA staff, working in areas such as station services or as onboard train personnel. The average age is 26.8 years and 73% have a university degree.

The recruitment initiative takes Renfe KSA’s train driver staff to 140 with now almost a quarter female.

Rosalina Reyes, a driver trainer for the Haramain High-Speed Railway, was one of IRJ’s 12 Women in Rail Award winners in 2022. You can read her story here. This year’s award winners will appear in the July issue of IRJ. Keep an eye on for when nominations open.