As Saudi Arabia gears up to move forward with its planned $7bn-8bn Riyadh metro and $7bn Saudi Landbridge rail project, it is clear that the kingdom is serious about expanding its rail infrastructure.

Both projects have been in the pipeline for several years, but have struggled to get off the ground due to a lack of funding or consensus on designs. The imminent prequalification of consortiums for the Riyadh metro and the tendering of the project management and design deals for the Saudi Landbridge link show that there is now fresh impetus behind the schemes.

The near completion of the North-South railway and recent contract awards on the under-construction Haramain High-Speed Rail Network are evidence that the kingdom is building a good track record for executing rail schemes once contracts have been awarded. Local and international construction firms are hopeful that the current crop of planned rail schemes will reach the execution stage without delay.

The need for rail schemes in Saudi Arabia is driven by civil and industrial factors. The kingdom’s growing population has created a demand for urban rail networks in Riyadh, Jeddah and Mecca. With the population of Saudi’s Arabia’s major cities predicted to continue expanding over the next 15 years, the demand for improved transport links will grow further.

Meanwhile, the government’s drive to expand the country’s industrial sector is demanding cargo rail links. In addition to the North-South Minerals line between Riyadh and Haditha, the Saudi Railway Company (SAR) is tendering schemes to build rail links between the industrial cities of Ras al-Khair and Dammam, and between Jubail and Dammam. Progress with the ambitious planned economic city schemes will create further demand for new industrial lines.

With the price of oil predicted to remain at more than $100 a barrel for the foreseeable future, Saudi Arabia will become one of the world’s most exciting rail markets.