The Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO) is preparing to issue requests for proposals (RFPs) for the civil works contract to the six international consortiums bidding for the Haramain high-speed rail project, previously known as the Mecca-Medina rail link.

This first package will be followed by a contract to build stations along the 444-kilometre-long route, and a third package to build rolling stock, track, communications and signalling systems, and carry out operations and maintenance work.

“We want all three RFPs out within six months, and to move the process along rapidly because the rolling stock alone will take three years to build,” says Abdulaziz al-Hokail, president of the SRO.

Riyadh decided earlier this year to issue the contracts on a public procurement basis rather than use the original build-operate-transfer approach (MEED 28:2:08).

“We decided using government finance would speed up the whole process,” says Al-Hokail. “We told the six consortiums to stay together and we would start the bidding soon. The final draft of the first tender is being finalised now.”

“We have a timetable for all three packages. As soon as the first is out, we will begin preparing the RFPs for the stations.”

One official at a lead company in one of the six consortiums says his group is preparing to bid for all three contracts. “We have been told to expect the first tender in a few days and we want to win all three contracts,” he says. “The change of structure to the bidding has not changed that.”

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers recently licensed the establishment of a joint stock company to oversee the $5bn Saudi Landbridge project (MEED 8:7:08).

The Saudi Land Bridge Company will take over as client on the project from the SRO when the winning consortium is named.

“Once we have a winning bidder, the SRO will begin to be phased out and all employees will transfer to the new company, which will oversee new projects and ensure there is no unfair competition,” says Al-Hokail.

Among the potential new projects, Al-Hokail says preliminary studies are under way into a high-speed link between Jeddah and the city of Abha in the south-west of the kingdom.

As revealed in MEED, the Tarabot consortium has been named preferred bidder for the Land Bridge (MEED 7:3:08).