Kingdom considering incentives to push drivers onto new public transport systems
Saudi Arabia is considering increasing the price of petrol and paid parking in a bid to push more people onto its new metro rail network in the capital Riyadh when it opens in 2019.
In a city accustomed to vehicles – often driven by a chauffer – officials said there would need to be incentives to use public transport.
Increasing the price of fuel also would help to reduce green house gas emissions, an official told local Arabic website Aleqt.
Petrol is heavily subsidised in Saudi Arabia, the largest oil-producing country in the GCC.
The planned rail network will have six lines extending 176kms and carry electric, driverless trains. It is the world's largest public transport system currently under development, according to Saudi officials.
On Sunday, the Saudi government awarded $22.5bn worth of contracts to three foreign-led consortia for the design and construction of the system.
The government said design work would start immediately and construction would begin in the first quarter of 2014. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2019.
Riyadh's population is projected to grow from 6m to over 8m in the next 10 years, making the metro vital to ease congestion and pollution in the capital's streets.
Solar energy would provide 20 percent of electricity consumption used to operate the train, the government said.
The kingdom is also building a rail network connecting Riyadh to the Jordanian border, as well as a metro system in the holy city of Makkah.