The beginnings of SRO
The idea of constructing a railway line in Saudi Arabia was first introduced in the mid 1940s, when a need became apparent for a port on the Gulf coast to handle materials dispatched to The Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco). Such goods had to be conveyed inland from the port to the company’s warehouses in Dhahran.
The idea provided by Aramco for establishing a railway from Dammam to Riyadh included the construction of a large commercial port able to receive the ships carrying the needs and equipments of the oil industry as well as the immense benefits of this port to the national economy.
The idea of constructing such a railway line was presented to the late King Abdul Aziz Al Saud who approved the project and instructed the line to be extended to Riyadh. Construction work commenced in September 1947 and on the 20th of October 1951, the line was officially inaugurated by His Majesty, King Abdul Aziz.
In the beginning, the railway line was run by Aramco, but it was subsequently entrusted to the Ministry of Finance, at which time it was known as the Railway Department.
On the 13th of May, 1966, a Royal Decree was issued establishing the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) as a public corporation having full legal status. A Board of Directors was appointed to lead the Organization on commercial principles.
The Dry Port in Riyadh
In the years following 1975, the volume of goods imported through the port of Dammam increased substantially. Most of such goods were imported by businesses in Riyadh and, subsequently, was sent by road to Riyadh. Consequently, the highways between Dammam and Riyadh witnessed very heavy traffic and faced the risk of increased traffic accidents. In this context, the idea of a dry port at Riyadh was born since a direct railway service to Riyadh would relieve the pressure on Dammam sea-port, and, more importantly, would assist importers to receive their goods at Riyadh, where customs clearance would be available.
The official inauguration of Riyadh Dry Port took place on Sunday, the 24th of May 1981.
The number of containers received annually at Riyadh Dry Port increased considerably as more traders turned to the services provided by the Dry Port. This is due to the quality of services offered at competitive fees and the ease and speed of delivery.
Statistics show that the number of containers handled at Riyadh Dry Port, since its inception in 1981, has increased dramatically. For example, in 1401 (1981/82), the number of standard containers (TEU's) handled was 21,000, twenty years later, in 1428/1429 (2008) the number reached more than 398,000.