The Saudi Rail Organisation (SRO) has extended the closing date for bids on an engineering, procurement and construction contract for work on the $7bn Haramain high-speed railway to the end of April to give bidders more time to prepare.

The decision comes after France’s Alstom with SNCF, France’s national rail operator, said they would not submit bids as they did not have enough time to prepare a bid by the original deadline of 28 February.

The SRO altered the tender process in January. Technical and financial bids were originally supposed to be submitted in two steps, but now they are to be submitted together (MEED 25:1:10).

Saudi Binladin Group and two other local firms, Al-Shoula Group and Al-Rajhi, are among the bidders for the contract. This is the second phase of the $7bn rail scheme to link Mecca, Medina and Jeddah.

The successful bidder will build the rail track as well as signalling, telecoms, electrification and an operational control centre. The contract also includes the procurement and maintenance of trains, and rail infrastructure for 12 years after completion.

Foster & Partners and Buro Happold, both UK, are now working on package two of phase one, covering the design of four stations along the route.