Gulf rail network ‘will start in 2017’


The KUNA news agency quoted GCC Assistant Secretary General Mohammed Obaid Al Mazroui as saying preliminary studies of the project, expected to cover some 2,000 km, have been completed and approved by GCC leaders.

He said the GCC secretariat, in cooperation with Gulf and international consultants, is now preparing detailed execution studies of the project. “If actual implementation of the project starts this year, then the Gulf train will be ready in 2017,” Mazroui said.

Initial estimates put the cost at $ 14 billion but the expense rose to $ 25 billion after GCC leaders demanded better specifications and faster trains, he said. The cost will be divided among GCC member states based on the length of the network in each country with Saudi Arabia and the UAE to pay the biggest shares.

Meanwhile, France’s Alstom, China Railway Construction Corp and Germany’s Siemens are among bidders for a 450-km (280 mile) railway in Saudi Arabia, an official said on Tuesday.

South Korea’s Samsung C&T is also among five pre-qualified consortiums which have been asked to submit bids for the final phase of the high-speed link, one of three railway projects planned in the kingdom, said Abdul Aziz al-Hoqail, chairman of state-owned Saudi Railway Organization (SRO).

The Haramain Railway, or the Two Holy Mosques railroad, will link Makkah and Madina to the Kingdom’s commercial hub Jeddah on the Red Sea coast.
Up to three million pilgrims flocking to Makkah every year.

The project is also expected to connect to King Abdullah Economic City, an ultra modern city and business hub.

Five contracts for the final phase of the Haramain project will cover laying tracks, installing signals and communications, providing the rolling stock, and operation and maintenance, Hoqail said.

Each consortium is led by a Saudi team and comprises a rolling stock provider, signaling and communication provider, and worldwide experienced operation and maintenance provider.

They have until Jan. 31 to submit their bids, Hoqail said. “We don’t know the cost of the whole project yet.”

Earlier this year, Saudi signed a SR6.5 billion ($ 1.73 billion) deal with a group led by Al-Rajhi Group to conduct the civil works linked to Haramain and a SR142 million contract with British firm Foster and Partners to design four stations for the rail link.

Last year, King Abdullah ordered that the project get funded by the finance ministry’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

“The government will fund it,” Hoqail said.
Next year, SRO will seek bids for Haramain’s four stations and will award their contracts before the end of June, Hoqail said.

“Hopefully by the end of 2012 we will start the commissioning of the project,” he said but added commercial launch would come later.
The Haramain link will eventually be linked to a planned Gulf rail network.

Saudi Arabia’s two other railway projects involve a 1,000-km-long Landbridge that links the kingdom’s eastern and western coasts and the North-South link which will be used for both mining and passenger transportation.


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