Saudi Arabia re-launches east-west link

By Chris Sleight13 October 2011

The Saudi Railways Organisation has approved plans for a new 950 km rail line to link the western port of Jeddah and Dammam and Jubail on the east coast. The line, which will pass through the capital Riyadh, is expected to be used mainly for freight and will cost an estimated US$ 10 billion.

The new stretch of line will be between Jeddah and Riyadh, where it will join existing track to reach Dammam and Jubail. The existing line from Riyadh to Jubail is 449 km long, while the track to Dammam is 556 km. The scheme has been described by some as a 'land bridge'.

The project was originally mooted in 2007 as a public-private partnership (PPP) concession scheme, however, under its current guise it will be traditionally procured, with finance coming from the state-owned Saudi Public Investment Fund. Several consortiums entered bids for the project under when it was first launched four years ago, and companies reported to be involved included KBR, General Electric, Mitsui, Siemens and Samsung E&C.

There are two other major rail projects currently underway in Saudi Arabia. The North-South link is a 2400 km project, again focussed on the freight sector. The Haramain scheme meanwhile is a high-speed passenger link for pilgrims between Jeddah and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

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