The four Mecca Metro contracts set for award in the first quarter of 2016 are still awaiting final sign-off from Saudi Arabia’s Royal Court.

“We are waiting to hear from the Royal Court; we do not know when they will sign the contracts,” Ali Abdelfattah, CEO of Mecca Mass Rail Transit Company (MMRTC), tells MEED.

The contracts include two civil works packages for lines B and C, as well as the systems and rolling stock deals.

In July 2015, a consortium of Spain’s Isolux Corsan, the local Haif Contracting, and Turkey’s Kolin announced it had been selected as the preferred bidder for the first civil works package. According to a statement on Isolux Corsan’s website at the time, the consortium has put forward a proposal for lines B and C valued at SR9.95bn ($2.6bn).

 Mecca Metro

Mecca Metro

Mecca Metro

The Spanish-led team has also been invited for negotiations for the first-phase contracts for lines B and C.

For the second civil works package, it is understood a joint venture of Spain’s Assignia and Turkey’s Mapa submitted the lowest offer at SR3.5bn.

A joint venture of local contractor Al-Saad, France’s Alstom and the UAE’s Drake & Scull is understood to be the low bidder for the systems package.

Unofficial news sources have recently alluded to the possibility of the contracts being signed in May this year and that only one metro line instead of two could be awarded.

Abdelfattah, however, says these assumptions are unfounded and that “nothing has been confirmed so far”.

Lines B and C comprise 23 kilometres of underground track and 22km of at-grade and elevated track, as well as 22 stations. The Mecca Metro’s two remaining lines, A and D, are still under study.

Mecca is home to the only operational urban light rail in the kingdom, the 18km Al-Mashaer monorail – often referred to as the pilgrim metro – which connects Saudi Arabia’s holy sites. It was completed in 2012 and constructed at a cost of $1.8bn. The metro operates only seven days a year, during the hajj season, and is capable of transporting 72,000 passengers an hour.  It also requires 5,000 staff to operate during this period.

Analysts and consultants tell MEED the kingdom’s procurement strategy, particularly for the mega rail projects, is expected to shift to a bite-size approach in view of the decreased public spending capacity due to low oil prices. It is understood the kingdom will now steer clear of awarding future projects using a big-bang approach similar to the one adopted in 2013 for the Riyadh Metro, where some $23bn-worth of contracts were awarded in a single year.

Other metro schemes in the kingdom’s pipeline are the Jeddah metro, light rail and tram schemes, which are currently prequalifying contractors, and the Medina metro, which is still currently under design.

More from our archive on Mecca province and rail projects