Makkah-Madinah railway project contract signed


Public Investment Fund Chairman and Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf and Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry signed the agreement with Abdullah Sulaiman Al-Rajhi, chairman of the Al-Rajhi Alliance, which comprises Al-Arrab Contracting Company, China Railway 18 Bureau and Masco.

The project is being implemented at the initiative of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, who wants to provide better transport services for Haj and Umrah pilgrims.

The 450-km rail track connecting Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah will be equipped with high-speed electric trains with a capacity of 320 km per hour. It will reduce the travel time between Makkah and Madinah to two hours and between Jeddah and Makkah to 30 minutes. The trains will also transport passengers from King Abdul Aziz International Airport to the holy cities.

The first phase of the project will include preparing the ground, constructing bridges, culverts and tunnels for laying track.

“We consider it a major project in the history of transport in the Kingdom,” Al-Seraisry said, adding that the high-speed trains would not only shorten the duration of the journey but also ensure passenger comfort. “Today’s signing ceremony is the result of great efforts made by the officials of the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO) and the Public Investment Fund, which has played a vital role in screening bidders for the project,” said Al-Seraisry, who is also chairman of SRO.

He added that the agreement for subsequent phases would be signed during the course of the implementation of the first phase. His ministry is studying a report submitted by a team that visited the United States, Japan and South Korea recently to choose the best trains to suit the Kingdom’s requirements.

“We will introduce the latest engines in this project that will eventually link with the Landbridge project,” the minister said, referring to a railway expansion plan linking the Kingdom’s east and west.

Abdul Aziz Al-Hoqail, president of SRO, said the project would be completed by the middle of 2012 and pilot operations on the track would be conducted for a period of six months until its official launch in November the same year.

“Bullet trains between the two holy cities are the safest mode of conveyance for pilgrims and other passengers. The trains will be fully electric and equipped with the latest signaling and communications systems,” he added.

The second phase will include, track laying, electrification, power supply, installing communication and signaling systems and deploying rolling stock.

Abdullah Al-Rajhi said the Al-Rajhi Investment Group owns 63.75 percent of the alliance while the Chinese company has funded 21.25 percent of the total investment.

Alstom, the French maker of TGV trains, will bid for the locomotives tender. A tender for five train stations will take place in the third or fourth quarter of 2009, Al-Rajhi added.

“We are very enthusiastic about the project that is going to serve millions of pilgrims,” Samer M.S. Arafa, executive vice president of Al-Arrab, partner in the Al-Rajhi Alliance, told Arab News following the signing. He added that his company would complete the project as scheduled.

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