The main packages cover different sections of the railway. The first contract centres on a 650-kilometre section from the planned fertiliser and aluminium complex at Ras al-Zour on the Gulf coast to the bauxite mine of Al-Zabirah, including the spurs to the Al-Zabirah mine site and Jubail. The second package involves the construction of 457 kilometres of track from Al-Zabirah to the mid-point of the Al-Nafud region. The third contract calls for the construction of a 782-kilometre-long section from Al-Nafud to the Al-Jalamid phosphate mine and Qurayyat, near the Jordanian and Iraqi borders, in addition to the Al-Basayta spur. A fill list of prequalified consortiums is due to be released by early August.

A tender for the fourth package, which entails a 480-kilometre section between Al-Zabirah junction and Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport, is expected to be issued in the final quarter. In total, the project will involve 83 million cubic metres of earthworks, the construction of more than 250 concrete bridges and more than 1,000 culverts and procurement of more than 4.5 million concrete sleepers, 4,800 kilometres of rail and more than 6 million cubic metres of rock ballast. The work also includes track laying to carry freight train operations varying in speeds of 100-160 kilometres an hour. Passenger transportation speeds of up to 250 kilometres an hour have also been considered. Completion of the entire project is scheduled by the end of 2010.

PIF opened commercial bids in late June for the two advanced earthworks packages in the Al-Nufud region. Al-Khodary Sons Company was the low bidder on both packages, although the client has stipulated that the contracts will be awarded to more than one contractor. The successful contractors will excavate and shore up more than 200 million cubic metres of earth and fill in crevices and wadis to ensure a flat surface for the railway tack laying. The first of the 42-month contracts covers a section around Hail, while the second is for the Al-Jawf area. The design and project management consultant (PMC) on the railway project is a group led by the US’ Louis Berger and comprising France’s Systra, its Canadian sister company Canarail Consultants and Saudi Consolidated Engineering Services (Khatib & Alami).