Saudi Arabia is giving the highest priority to the Mecca Metro project, says Ali Abdelfattah, CEO designate of Makkah Mass Rail Transit.

Riyadh is reviewing all projects planned and under way in the kingdom as part of a review of government finances and spending plans.

Projects identified as national priorities are set to being given the go ahead, while lower priority projects will be shelved.

Speaking at the MEED Construction Leadership Summit in Dubai on 25 May, Abdelfattah said that Mecca Metro was a priority project.

He said that enabling work on the project had commenced and that contractors for the five major contracts on the project had been identified and were awaiting approval from the Royal Court. 

Vision 2030

The project received a boost in April when comments included in Riyadh Vision 2030 identified Mecca Metro as a priority project, enhancing expectations of contract awards this year for the construction and delivery of the Mecca Metro scheme.

The economic road map released on 25 April says that the project is a key part of the government’s commitment to improving transport and other facilities at holy sites as it seeks to increase the number of Umrah pilgrims from 8 million to 30 million a year. 

“We have launched the Mecca Metro project to complement the railroad and train projects that will serve visitors to the holy mosques and holy sites. We have reinforced the network of our transport system to facilitate access and help pilgrims perform their visits with greater ease and convenience,” the Vision 2030 document said.

MEED reported in early April that the four contracts for the delivery of Mecca Metro are still awaiting final sign-off from Saudi Arabia’s Royal Court.

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 said 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).

Pilgrim 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.

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.