Only two of the four invited local firms submitted bids for the estimated SR6bn ($1.6bn),
14-month engineering, procurement and construction contract.

Sources close to the project say that both Saudi Binladin Group and Al-Harbi Trading & Contracting submitted bids above budget, at more than SR10bn.

The client, the Municipalities & Rural Affairs Ministry, also invited Saudi Oger and Al-Mabani General Contractors to bid for the work, but neither firm submitted an offer by the deadline of the end of October.

According to one of the contractors, they decided not to bid due to concerns over the timetable of the project. “We felt the execution period of the project was simply too tight and so we made a decision at the last minute not to submit,” he says.

“Fourteen months is crazy,” says another source close to the project. “You cannot complete a light rail system in a city like Mecca in such a timeframe.”

It is understood that the client is now considering extending the project duration by a further 10 months to 24 months.

The light rail system will be 19 kilometres in length and will link the holy sites at Mecca, Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat. It will have capacity for up to 90,000 passengers an hour.

The design for the light rail system was carried out by the French firms Systra and Egis Rail.