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Second week

I am starting to get out and about the railway systems.

First up was the automated people mover (APM) at the Princess Noura Bint Abdul Rahman University (PNU). This is the largest women only university in the world. It occupies a 14 sq km site to the north east of Riyadh. In line with the segregated culture of the Kingdom, men are not allowed to go into the Uni during working hours. As the APM system only operates during Uni hours, it is fully automated and driverless. There are 14 stations on the 21 track km elevated system. 10 of these are on a circle line which serves the teaching facilities, and there are 3 branch lines, one to the student accommodation with 2 stations, one to the academic staff quarters with 2 stations, and one to the depot.

It was the depot that I visited, where a state of the art engineering facility and control room are housed. This is in the outer service-area part of PNU where men are permitted. Although the control room has full operational control of the system there is no CCTV of the stations, for cultural reasons. The stations have platform edge doors which prevent things and people accessing the track. In the event of equipment failure, there is a specially trained female repair squad who attend site or can drive the trains if the signalling system is lost. These ladies have their own segregated area in the depot, so I didn't meet or even see any of them.  I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if the repair squad wore abayas, which must be the ultimate in low-visibility clothing.

I have been invited to observe the APM annual emergency planning live exercise which will take place the weekend after next. However I will miss it as I am returning to the UK this weekend and then am off to Sweden on prearranged holidays. Back to Saudi on 25th April. 

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* Call Alastair Fyfe directly on 07785 370074 (UK) or +966 503095212