Saudi-Spanish group bags rail contract
An artist’s impression of a train station along the Makkah-Jeddah-Rabigh-Madinah route.
DAMMAM: A Saudi-Spanish consortium is on track to build the key Western component of the Kingdom’s high-speed rail system that will link Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah and Rabigh, the Saudi Railways Organization announced Wednesday.
The second phase of the multibillion-riyal Haramain High Speed Rail project was awarded to Al-Shoula consortium, which comprises two Saudi and 12 Spanish companies such as Renfe, Talgo, Adif and OHL. It is being described as one of the largest foreign infrastructure projects ever won by the Spanish companies.
“An approval has been issued on awarding Phase 2 of the project to Al-Shoula consortium, comprising a number of Saudi and Spanish companies,” Saudi Railways Organization reported Wednesday from its headquarters here in Dammam. The contract is worth nearly SR38 billion.
The project includes construction of railway tracks, installation of signals and telecommunication systems, electrification, operational control center, procurement of 35 passenger trains along with operation and maintenance for 12 years.
Spanish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Pablo Bravo expressed delight, and acknowledged the tough competition that Spanish companies faced in winning the coveted project.
“I am very happy and very satisfied that the award has gone to a Saudi-Spanish consortium,” he told Arab News from Riyadh. “I tell you, we will do a very good job … We are, as you know, the world leader in high-speed rail networks.”
Spain and France have been in stiff competition to win the contract. Wire reports said French Prime Minister Francois Fillon had discussed the project during his visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this year. Spain has been a world leader in high-speed rail networks and boasts one of the longest such systems in Europe, ahead of France.
In July, media had widely speculated that the Al-Shoula consortium had won the project, beating the French group which included SNCF and Alstom. However, SRO President Abdul Aziz M. Al-Hokail clarified at that time no deal had been reached.
The Haramain High Speed Rail project, widely known in industry circles as HHR, is a 444-km high-speed inter-city rail transport system currently under construction linking the two holy cities of Madinah and Makkah via King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh and King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah.
The Makkah-Madinah rail link is part of the major railway expansion project, which includes linking Jeddah with Riyadh and Dammam. The Makkah-Jeddah-Madinah rail link is expected to carry more than 150,000 passengers daily during peak seasons, such as Haj and Umrah.
The rail line is planned to provide a safe, comfortable transport in 320-kph electric trains. Construction started in March 2009. The railway is expected to carry 3 million passengers annually, including Haj and Umrah pilgrims, helping to relieve highway congestion.
The double-track line will be electrified, and the design speed is 360 kph. Commuting the 85 km between Jeddah and Makkah will take less than half an hour, while the 410 km between Jeddah and Madinah will take about 2 hours.
There will be several stations including at Madinah (Knowledge Economic City) at the north end of the line, King Abdullah Economic City-Rabigh, King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, and Makkah in the south. The Makkah Central Station will be located near the 3rd Ring Road. The Jeddah Central Station will be located on the Haramain Road.
The stations will be “aesthetically iconic” buildings with designs that take into account Islamic architectural traditions. They will have shops, restaurants, mosques, car parking, a helipad and VIP lounges.
The two holy cities attract pilgrims all year round, and, in addition to Jeddah, make up the main center in the Kingdom’s Western region.
Considered by many as the Kingdom’s economic capital, Jeddah is the second most populated city after Riyadh and is popularly known as the gateway to Makkah.