A consortium of Italian consulting and project company Italferr, Spanish engineering group Sener and US-based construction management expert Hill International has emerged as the preferred bidder for a project management services contract for the Saudi Landbridge project, reported International Railway Journal.
Bids for the contract were received by Saudi Railway Company (SAR) in October 2022 and the consortium has overcome rival proposals from Systra and a consortium of Parsons and Egis.
With the project management contract now confirmed, local media reports suggest that SAR is preparing to start work on the public-private partnership (PPP) project, which includes constructing the new 950-km railway between Riyadh and Jeddah, early next year.
The negotiations over the final cost and financing structure for the $7-billion scheme are nearing conclusion, stated the IRJ report.
The Saudi China Landbridge Consortium (SLCC) – comprising SAR and China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) with Al Ayuni named as a local partner – had signed an agreement to implement the project under a PPP in October 2018.
The other members in the consortium are: Systra, Thales, WSP, Aldhabaan & Partners, the local partner of British law firm Eversheds & Sutherland, ALG Infrastructure, and Calx Consultancy.
Italferr and local partner Arabian Consulting Engineering Centre (ACEC) completed the design of the project in 2017. Freight trains will operate at up to 160 km/h on the new line and passenger trains at up to 250km/h.
The project itself involves a mixture of upgrades and new line construction and is expected to take seven years to complete. It is split into six sections.
The first section comprises the upgrade of the Jubail Industrial City internal network, which is currently under construction, and will require the construction of 10km of new track.
The second is the upgrade of the existing Jubail – Dammam line, which is also currently under construction and will require 35km of new track construction.
The third section will involve an upgrade of the Dammam – Riyadh line, which includes the construction of 87km of new track.
The fourth section, the Riyadh bypass, will connect the existing network in the north of the city to the south. It is split into two packages: the first has 67km of track and the second has 35km.
The fifth section is a new 950-km link from Riyadh to Jeddah, which will continue for 146 km to King Abdullah Port. The Riyadh – Jeddah section will have three intermediate stations at Jamuma, Moya and Al-Doadmi.
The sixth section is the new 172km line from King Abdullah Port to Yanbu Industrial City. The project will also include the construction of seven logistics centres at Jubail Industrial City Logistics Centre, Damman Logistics Dry Port, a relocated Riyadh Dry Port, King Khalid Airport Logistics Centre in Riyadh, Jeddah Logistics Dry Port, King Abdullah Port Logistics Centre and Yanbu Industrial City Logistics Centre.
Plans to develop the Saudi Landbridge project were originally announced in 2004 and were revived in 2011, with progress relatively slow since then.
Italferr had in 2013 been awarded a contract by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), on behalf of Saudi Railway Company (SAR), for the extension of the detailed design of the “Landbridge” railway that will connect the port of Jeddah, on the Red Sea, to Al Jubail, on the Arabian Sea along the new route named “Blue Corridor.”
A massive rail project, it boasts 1,300 km of rail line, with predominantly freight traffic, that will cross Saudi Arabia all its length, thereby joining the two seas surrounding the Arabian Peninsula.
The new corridor is characterised by Section 1 running 271 km (part of the original Red Corridor) followed by Section 2 to Al Jubail extending to 1,300 km (Blue Corridor), representing the central element of Saudi Arabia’s railway improvement program for the purpose of social and economic development of the entire region, stated the IRJ report.
Work on the project began in July 2013 and ended in April 2018, it added.