Riyadh expects to make a decision on how and when to build the planned $7bn Landbridge railway project in Saudi Arabia soon.

“Hopefully very soon you will hear good news about the Landbridge,” says Rumaih al-Rumaih, chief executive officer of Saudi Railway Company (SAR) during MEED’s Mena Rail Projects 2011 conference.

It is not yet confirmed if the Saudi Rail Organisation (SRO) will award the contract on a build,operate and transfer (BOT) basis, or if it will retender the project using a simpler engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract.

No official announcement has been made, but most likely the Landbridge will be a government project, says Al-Rumaih

The Saudi Landbridge is a 950-kilometre-long passenger and cargo railway designed to create a link between Jeddah on the Red Sea coast and the ports of Dammam and Jubail on the Gulf coast. SAR is the client for the construction of the Jubail-Dammam railway and the internal rail network in Jubail itself.

The Landbridge will also pass through the kingdom’s capital Riyadh.

The project has been through a complicated tender process. It was initially planned to be developed on a 50-year BOT scheme financed through debt. In August 2009, the Saudi government decided to fund the scheme on its own after private banks proved unwilling to finance the project. The project was then retendered again on a BOT basis.

The Landbridge will be able to transport 8 million tonnes of containers each year when complete.