The local Medina Development Authority has invited companies to submit bids for the project management contract for the city’s new metro.

The client issued the request for proposals (RFP) to project management firms on 13 January.

Early estimates suggest the project will cost at least $1bn to construct. In May 2013, a joint venture of Lebanon’s Khatib & Alami and Turkey’s Istanbul Ulasim was awarded a consultancy services contract for the proposed Medina metro.

The metro is being developed to help ease congestion in the holy city during the pilgrimage season. Each year, millions of hajj and umrah pilgrims go to Medina to visit the Prophet’s Mosque. By 2040, annual visitor numbers are predicted to reach 8.6 million for hajj and 3.6 million for umrah. Medina itself is getting increasingly busy, with the population of the city and surrounding suburbs expected to grow from today’s 1.1 million to 2.6 million people by 2040.

Saudi Arabia has already heavily invested in transport projects designed to tackle pilgrimage traffic. The Haramain high-speed rail connection between Medina and Mecca is under construction.

A mass transit system in the holy city of Mecca is also planned. In November last year, companies were invited to prequalify for civil construction contracts for the first phase of Mecca’s new metro.

The first phase of the project will cover the partial construction of lines B and C. Line B is 12 kilometres in length, has seven stations and will be mostly underground. Line C covers 22km of track with 15 stations; the tender includes the depot civil works. Potential bidders are invited to prequalify for one or both lines, although both packages will not be awarded to the same contractor.

It is just one element of a wider SR60bn ($16.5bn) transport programme for Mecca known as Mecca Public Transport Programme (MPTP), which also includes a bus network.

The kingdom is also expected to soon invite firms to bid for the project management contract for the planned 152km-long Jeddah metro. The Jeddah metro will have three major lines: Orange; Blue; and Green. The total length of the network is 152km, with 92 stations. The Orange Line is 84km and spilt into two parts. The Blue Line is 36km and the Green Line is 32km.

The metro forms part of Jeddah’s public transport masterplan, which also features an additional 93km commuter rail link looping around the city, as well as a 48km tramway.