First batch of Saudi train drivers graduate, says kingdom's railway authority

First batch of Saudi train drivers graduate, says kingdom's railway authority
2 min read
02 January, 2023
More than 30 Saudi women have graduated to become the Gulf kingdom's first female train drivers.
Trains on the Haramain high-speed railway travel between Mecca and Medina [Getty/archive]

Saudi Arabia’s railway authority announced Sunday the graduation of 32 women who will drive bullet trains between the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Saudi Arabia Railways said on Twitter: "32 Saudi female leaders set off at full speed to fulfill their great dream of driving one of the fastest trains in the world."

The women will drive trains on the Haramain high-speed electric railway, which has a length of 450 km and an operational speed of 300 km per hour, according to the train line's website.

Launched in 2018, the Haramain railway links Mecca and Medina – Islam’s first and second holiest sites respectively.

A job advert to recruit female train drivers in February last year attracted up to 28,000 applicants, a sign of the scale of demand for opportunities for women in the conservative kingdom.

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Job opportunities for Saudi women have until recently been limited to those in healthcare, education and a select few other sectors, in line with the country's strict gender segregation rules. Women were not even allowed to drive in the kingdom until 2018.

Saudi Arabia is highlighting progress on gender issues at a time of scrutiny in the West over its human rights record, including a crackdown on dissents that ensnared dozens of women's rights activists and the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.