Drivers prepare to return to Jordan-Saudi route

Saudi cars
Cars and buses are pictured at the Saudi-Jordan border in this undated photo. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The Land Transport Regulatory Commission (LTRC) announced recently that travel vehicles will be allowed to work again on the Jordan-Saudi Arabia route, after a hiatus of more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. اضافة اعلان

The decision may allow much-needed relief for drivers who lost an important source of income — with some limitations.

"Before this latest decision, Jordanian passengers had to stop their vehicles at the Saudi borders — where they must be taken to Saudi buses in order to continue their trip,” said spokesperson for the Land Transport Regulatory Commission, Abla Weshah, in an interview with Jordan News. “Now they are allowed to enter the Saudi lands in their own vehicles."

However, "the return of the work of travel vehicles on the Jordan-Saudi Arabia route is subject to the health situation in both countries, so we cannot predict what the coming days hold for us,” the spokesperson added.

“Unfortunately, because of the pandemic we are not able to travel as easily as we could before the pandemic,” he said. “Now everything is subject to the health status, which determines our moves."

"Passengers are obligated to have a negative PCR test 72 hours before traveling,” Weshah explained. “There are some certain health protocols that Saudi Arabia put and we must follow in order to ensure safety to the Jordanian passengers and the Saudis, too."

The spokesman said that "each country has its full right to protect its land and citizens; just as Saudi Arabia follows certain health protocols, Jordan follows ours too to guarantee that citizens and travelers are safe."

"Despite (the fact) that this is a good decision, especially because we are having large losses due to the pandemic, the decision still oppresses us,” said Abdallah Qaisi, the owner of a company which provides services for travelers, in an interview with Jordan News.

Qaisi pointed out that some of Saudi Arabia’s internal restrictions will limit the success of drivers who commute across the border — such as a requirement that cars passing the border be no more than five years old.

"Regarding the operational life for vehicles … I can say that most of the drivers cannot afford to get such vehicles, especially in these hard conditions," he said. "Drivers can guarantee that even vehicles that are older than seven years are safe. Those drivers are professionals and know what is good for their own safety and for the passengers’ safety, too."

The vaccine presents another challenge. "Most of the drivers I know have taken Sinopharm — and this is not the drivers' fault,” Qasi said.

The Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, widely distributed in Jordan, has not yet been approved in Saudi Arabia, which requires visitors to be fully vaccinated with an approved jab or quarantine for two weeks at their own expense. “The government should have realized this point previously. Now that they are prevented from traveling, what can they do?"

Director of the LTRC, Tareq Habashneh, stressed in recent press statements that drivers must receive two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by Saudi Arabia.

The director added that drivers are also obligated to conduct a PCR test with a negative result 72 hours before travel, to obtain a 6-month visa, and to register on the Saudi "Tawakalna" platform before they enter.

Habashneh stressed the need for vehicles traveling across the border to adhere to the operational age set by the Saudi authorities: five years for cars and 10 years for buses.

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