According to Enzo Zoratto, chief strategic officer with US-based consultant DCK Worldwide, several regional firms have been approached. “We have begun dialogue with a small group of major firms and expect many more,” says Zoratto. “Engagement with interested stakeholders will take place within the next five months.”

Al-Noor plans to develop two cities either side of the Red Sea linked via a road and rail bridge. Dean Kershaw, programme manager with the US’ L-3, the project manager, says memorandums of understanding have been signed by the two governments and land has been allocated. “The land has been identified,” he says. “Framework agreements and negotiations are starting soon. The intent is to establish free-trade zones.”

The 27-kilometre-long bridge linking the cities will cost $20-25bn.The next phase for the bridge is the detailed design.

“We are going into negotiation now to determine how long it will take,” says Paul Ostergaard, senior vice-president at Urban Design Associates, which is carrying out the masterplan for the project.

Several projects are being considered to attract investment in the cities, including a port, refineries, cement plants and an airport.

“We expect to have several companies in joint ventures interact in the large anchor projects we have planned,” says Zoratto.