NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – In Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive cars, the prospect of a new public metro system may give many of them greater mobility, according to a report in Businessweek.
The new metro system, expected to be completed in the capital city of Riyadh in 2019, will feature special carriages reserved for women and children.
In theory, that would allow women to travel without the need of a male chauffeur. It has been estimated that the kingdom imports tens of thousands of foreign male drivers to ferry women around. The salary of such drivers is beyond the means of many women who then must rely on the availability of male relatives to drive them.
In September, Riyadh’s Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University, an all women’s school, is slated to open its own on-campus rail line, which will reportedly be operated by an all-female staff, according to Arabian Business.
“For sure I will use the metro – it will be a major solution for the women problem in our society, since we don’t drive,” female Riyadh university student Alaa Hassan told Reuters. “I go to my university by minibus, and I pay 2,000 riyals ($535) per month; other classmates who live nearer pay 800 to 1,000. For sure the metro will be cheaper.”
The kingdom’s planned metro system, estimated to cost $23 billion, is expected to offer six lines covering 176 kilometers around Riyadh and eventually to also provide service in Mecca and Jeddah.