Deputy chief executive officer of Qatar Railways, Geoff Brian Mee, says firms should form consortiums now to be well positioned for design-and-build tunnelling packages.

“We are urging companies to form consortiums now, as we will be issuing expressions of interest in the next two months,” he told delegates attending MEED’s Qatar Infrastructure Projects 2011 conference in London.

The 350-kilometre metro project will create 100 stations, 119km of underground railway in the city centre, 73km of elevated track as the light rail lines emerge from the tunnels, and 166km of line at grade level. Tunnelling will be broken into 12 packages each worth $1bn to $1.5bn. Awards could be made as early as mid-2012.

Mee says it was critical that companies bid as teams. “We will not prequalify individuals, we will only prequalify consortiums that are capable of carrying out the civil engineering package in total. We will only do 25 per cent of the design with our in house team, we have got to outsource this detailed design to the consortiums,” he says.

He urged groupings to consist of local and international companies. “There is no one that has built a railway in Qatar and there is no one in Qatar that has built a railway.”

Information sessions given in early July saw 715 companies attend presentations on the $35bn Qatar Integrated Railways Project. Mee says the Fifa 2022 World Cup award meant that, for the four lines forming the core of the metro system, there was an eight-year window for completion.

“Tunnelling will take around three years, but it takes 18 months to build a tunnel-boring machine (TBM). The metro must be operational by 2020.”