The seven shortlisted groups are: the US’ Parsons International; Systraof France; the US’ Parsons Brinckerhoff; Booz Allen & Hamilton, also of the US, with Gutteridge, Haskins & Daveyof Australia; Beirut-based Dar al-Handasah (Shair & Partners); Transurb Technirailof Belgium; and ObermeyerPlanen & Beraten, with Hansa Luftbild, both of Germany.

The project will involve construction of a railroad from the Al-Jalamid phosphate mines in the northwest of the kingdom via Al-Zabirah to Riyadh, where it will be connected to the existing railroad to the east coast, which will be upgraded. A new link will also be built along the coast to the industrial zone at Ras al-Zour, north of Jubail, which will house Maaden’s planned $3,490 million alumina refinery and aluminium smelter, a diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertiliser complex and a captive power and desalination plant (see Power & Water).

Maaden and Saudi Oger, together with the state’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), are expected to provide financing for the railway, which will be run and maintained by a foreign operator under a long-term concession. However, a final decision will only be made once the feasibility of the mining projects has been confirmed. The contract to prepare a full feasibility study for the integrated Al-Zabirah bauxite mining project, which will involve the aluminium complex in Ras al-Zour, was awarded in April to the US’ Bechtel.