After the successful multibillion-dollar awards made on the Riyadh Metro in July, a new metro project in Saudi Arabia is whetting the appetite of contractors in the region.

News that Mecca Mass Rail Transit Company (MMRTC) is inviting firms to prequalify for civil construction packages for the first phase of the city’s new metro suggests interest in the region’s rail ambitions is far from waning.

There are several other metro developments in Saudi Arabia and the government is likely to push forward with these plans in the coming months as well. For the Jeddah Metro, a tender for pre-project management services is set to be issued soon, with construction contracts due next year.

There are also plans to build metro and light rail systems in Dammam and Medina, and their respective transport authorities will be watching developments in Mecca carefully.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, Abu Dhabi’s resurrected plans to build a metro are also gathering interest, with firms busily forming consortiums to bid on contracts.

The success of these rail schemes will, however, depend on a number of factors. There will need to be careful management of both materials and human resources to ensure the costs of development do not soar to unmanageable heights.

There are growing concerns that the scale of rail projects both in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf could place too much pressure on the limited pool of rail engineering expertise in the region and even globally. So far, these challenges are not deterring international and local contractors, all eager to carve out a slice of the rapidly expanding industry.