RIYADH (Reuters) – Seven consortiums have submitted bids to build and operate a 450-km (280-mile) high-speed railway linking the Saudi cities of Medina and Mecca, the head of the state-run Saudi Railways Organization said on Saturday.
The groups included Saudi and foreign firms from Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Spain, Khaled al-Yahya said.
“We are talking about international industry leaders,” he said noting that the cost of the project will be subject to a tender process. He declined to name the firms.
“Projects like these normally take four years to be completed after the signature of the construction agreement,” Yahya told Reuters by telephone.
Millions of pilgrims visit each year Mecca and Medina, home to Islam’s holiest shrines. The railway will also serve the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, the kingdom’s second-largest city.
“We estimate at 15-20 million the number of passengers that could use the Medina-Jeddah-Mecca rail link each year,” Yahya said.
Saudi Arabia, with a relatively underdeveloped railway network, also plans a 2,400-km railway, called Landbridge, linking the north of the vast desert kingdom to its south.
It pre-qualified in May four consortiums led by France’s Bouygues, Kuwait’s Public Warehousing Co. and Saudi firms Binladin Group and Mada Company for Industrial and Commercial Investment for the Landbridge contract, estimated by industry sources to be worth about $5 billion.