King Fahd Causeway Authority (KFCA) has received bids for the contract to build a new island that will increase the capacity of the causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

The contract involves the reclamation of a new island close to the coast of Saudi Arabia that will be used to house upgraded immigration facilities planned to increase the vehicle capacity of the causeway, which often has severe congestion during peak periods. On average, the bridge serves about 45,000 vehicles a day. That figure increases to about 60,000 vehicles during weekends.

According to sources close to the project, the marine works contract involves the dredging and reclamation of about 6 million cubic metres of material together with rock protection. Another contract covering the construction of a similar island close to the Bahraini coast is expected to be tendered later.

The existing King Fahd Causeway was opened in 1986 and extends for a total length of 25 kilometres. The bridge cost an estimated $1.2bn to construct.

The existing causeway comprises five bridges interconnected by islands and dams. Three of the bridges form the Saudi Arabian part of the causeway and measure 934 metres, 2,034 metres and 5,194 metres in length. The Bahraini side of the link consists of two bridges, measuring 3,334 metres and 934 metres in length.

In addition to the expansion of the King Fahd Causeway, there are plans to improve transport links between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain with a new rail causeway that may also include a road link.

The railway line will form part of the $15.5bn GCC-wide rail network, which is targeted to be operational by 2018. The Saudi-Bahrain connection was originally estimated to cost $4.5bn, but is now predicted to exceed $5bn. Initial plans envisaged the connection will be 90km long. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud approved the building of a second bridge, known as King Hamad causeway, between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in early September, which could mean the new causeway for the railway will proceed.