Saudi Arabia high-speed rail to commence in second half of 2018

02 January 2018
Kingdom will be conducting trial journeys on its first high-speed rail between January and June

Saudi Arabia’s 450km Haramain High-Speed Rail system is expected to enter full commercial operations in the second half of 2018 following the completion of a scheduled six-month trial.

MEED understands the kingdom’s rail authorities will undertake trial journeys for the kingdom’s first high-speed rail system between January and June.

According to local media reports, the public will be invited to try certain journeys during weekends over the coming months.

The first full-length trial journey of the rail system was conducted on 31 December.

Prior to this, two previous tests have been conducted on the shorter segments of the rail route.

In October last year, a train completed the 72km test run from Jeddah to the rail network’s terminus in Mecca.

Five months earlier in June, Spanish trains supplier Talgo completed a test run on the longer segment of the rail that extends from King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) station to the terminus in Medina.

Talgo, which had its contract to supply 35 trains was cancelled and then reinstated by  Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO) in 2016, said in June last year that “dynamic testing is proceeding satisfactorily in extreme environmental conditions, with outside temperatures of up to 50oC.”The firm said the trains are equipped with a desert pack that  include a certified thermal resistance of up to 50oC and an auxiliary power supply which is capable of keeping the air-conditioning system operational for more than two hours in the event of an overhead electrification failure.

The trains are also equipped with blowers positioned close to the wheels to clear sand off the track as well as positive atmospheric pressure, military-grade air filters, reinforced door seals to prevent dust ingress, and polyurethane sheeting on the driving cab windows to reduce wear from blowing sand.

The kingdom’s first high-speed rail will have five stations including the two terminus in Mecca and Medina. The other three stations are located in KAEC, the King Abdulaziz International airport and Jeddah.

Contracts to build the railway were awarded between 2009 and 2011. The scheme has faced delays in the past couple of years. In April 2015, MEED reported that SRO had warned the Saudi/Spanish consortium Al-Shoula Group, which won the $8.4bn contract for phase 2 of the project in 2011, that it could be removed from the project if delays continued to slow progress.

However, following a formal arbitration, the SRO agreed in late 2016 to compensate the Al-Shoula consortium €150m ($158m) for additional costs arising from delays and pledged to bring its payments to the railway consortium up to date.

The preliminary agreement, which was approved by the Saudi government in early 2017, resulted in a revised timescale. The completion of the project had been put back by around 14 months from January 2017 to the first quarter of 2018.

Spanish companies that are part of the Al-Shoula consortium include:

  • Adif / Renfe: 12-year operation and maintenance
  • OHL / Copasa / Imathia: Track construction and maintenance
  • Inabensa / Cobra: electrification and electro-mechanical equipment
  • Talgo: rolling stock
  • Dimetronic (recently acquired by Siemens): signalling
  • Indra: ancillary and control systems including intrusion detection and ticketing


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