The Public Investment Fund (PIF) has issued the prequalification notice for the main construction packages on its 2,400-kilometre-long minerals railway project, with international contractors being given until 15 May to submit applications (MEED 10:3:06).Each package covers different sections of the railway. The first contract covers 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. It may also include the spur from Abu Hadriyah junction to Jubail, although a decision is still pending on whether to tender this separately. 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. The fourth and final package entails a 480-kilometre section between Al-Zabirah junction and Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport. Pending completion of design, this package may also include a further 50 kilometres toward Riyadh. 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 contemplated. Under the terms of the proposed contracting schedule, bids for each package will be submitted in July, with a view to awarding the contracts by year-end. For the first two contracts, completion is scheduled for October 2009. Contracts three and four will be completed by October and July 2010 respectively. PIF is also expecting to issue by the end of April two tenders covering earthworks in the Al-Nafud region. A number of local contractors have been prequalified for the two 42-month contracts, which will involve the filling of about 180 million cubic metres of sand and the cutting of more than 90 million cubic metres of material. The first contract covers a section around Hail, while the second covers 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 MEED 11:11:05). The prequalification documents can be downloaded from www.nsrway.com.sa.