Several billion dollars worth of rail contracts are to be awarded in Saudi Arabia over the coming months.

Bids are due on 29 October for two major contracts on the North-South minerals railway, one of which is the disputed fourth construction package, to build a 480-kilometre passenger line between Al-Zabirah junction and King Khaled International airport in Riyadh.

The state-owned Russian Railways claims it was awarded the contract in January, after submitting a bid of $800m.

The contract was subsequently retendered by Riyadh, leading Moscow to accuse the kingdom of political bias in cancelling its contract (MEED 15:8:08).

Length of passenger line linking Al-Zabirah junction and King Khaled International airport 480km
Value of bid Russian Railways submitted for first tender $800m
Number of rail operators with bid documents for the retender 18

“Russian Railways was never awarded the contract,” says Rumaih Alrumaih, deputy chief executive officer for operations at Saudi Railway Company.

“It was tendered and then retendered. The committee at the time thought there were elements of its bid that were missing.”

Some 18 international rail operators have collected bid documents for the retendered project, including Russian Railways, although it is not expected to submit a fresh bid.

Three international groups will also bid for the other major contract: to be the operator of the entire minerals rail network.

The network will link Saudi Arabia’s bauxite mines in the north of the country to the refinery at Ras al-Zour on the east coast.

The client, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), part of the Finance Ministry, has shortlisted three bidders for the contract, including a joint venture of Germany’s Deutsche Bahn and the local Saudi Binladin Group, India’s Rites, and Australia’s Pacific National.

The project is being overseen by the Implementation Supervision Consultant, a consortium of France’s Systra, Canada’s Canarail, the US’ Louis Berger and Lebanon’s Khatib & Alami.

“We will collect bids for these two big contracts and then push through decisions on others,” said Arash Aghdam, project director for the Implementation Supervision Consultant, at MEED’s Rail Projects Conference in Dubai on 15 October. “We are ready to move forward.”

Among the other contracts expected to be awarded in the coming months is a deal to supply freight and mineral locomotives for the line.

The US’ General Electric and Electro Motive Diesel, and two divisions of the state-owned China Railways Group, have been prequalified to supply the required locomotives.

Contracts for signalling systems and wagons will also be awarded this year, and tenders are due to be issued for contacts to supply passenger rolling stock and to build stations along the line.

The international consultants overseeing the project have also begun a study for two final rail construction projects on the North-South line.

One will connect Ras al-Zour to the nearby industrial city of Jubail, while the other will be an urban link connecting the airport to other parts of Riyadh.