Financial submissions for the contract to operate the kingdom’s 2,400-kilometre-long network will be opened in mid-February.

India’s Rites and Australia’s Pacific National are the only companies bidding, after a joint venture of Deutsche Bahn and the local Saudi Binladin Group pulled out (MEED 17:10:08).

Bids for the $800m fourth construction package on the project are also undergoing technical evaluation before financial offers are opened. It is not known how many companies have submitted bids, but 18 firms collected the bid documents.

The contract involves carrying out civil works on the 480km passenger line between Al-Zabirah junction and King Khaled International airport in Riyadh.

The contract was retendered in the summer of 2008, after the Public Investment Fund (PIF) dismissed the bid from the state-owned Russian Railways, which had been in line for the contract (MEED 15:8:08).

Officials overseeing the project say both contracts will be awarded by the end of March.

The North-South line will link the Al-Jalamid phosphate mine and the Al-Zabirah bauxite mine in the north with planned aluminium and fertiliser complexes at Ras al-Zour on the Gulf coast.

In January, a joint venture of Saudi Binladin Group and France’s Thales signed an agreement to build signalling and telecoms networks along the route.