Saudi Arabia in final Landbridge talks

26 January 2023
A team of 11 companies led by a Chinese firm is expected to implement the $7bn scheme

Saudi Arabia is undertaking negotiations for the final cost and financing of the $7bn Saudi Landbridge project, which involves building a railway network across the kingdom from the Red Sea coast to the Gulf.

Transport and Logistics MInister Saleh al-Jasser said in a forum in Riyadh that Saudi authorities are undertaking negotiations with a Chinese-led consortium comprising 11 companies to determine the final cost and financing of the project, according to local media reports.

Al-Jasser added that the authorities would consider implementing the project with the help of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) if an agreement with the consortium is not reached.

Saudi Arabia and China will continue working together on the Saudi Landbridge project, as MEED reported in December.

In a joint statement at the end of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia on 9 December, the two countries said: “Regarding transportation and logistics field, the two sides stressed the importance of enhancing cooperation and joint action on developing the air and sea transport sectors, modern transport modes and railways, and expediting the completion of studies on the Saudi Landbridge project.”

PPP team

The Saudi China Landbridge Consortium (SLCC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to implement the Saudi Landbridge project using a public-private partnership (PPP) model in October 2018. The SLCC was formed by Saudi Railway Company (SAR) and China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC).

Al-Ayuni Contracting was named as the local partner for the consortium. Other members include French firms Systra and Thales; Canada’s WSP; Aldhabaan & Partners, the local partner of UK legal consultancy Eversheds & Sutherland; ALG Infrastructure; and Calx Consultancy.

SLCC presented the findings of the initial feasibility study it conducted on the project to the kingdom’s Transport General Authority in October 2020.

Project scope

The seven-year Landbridge project is estimated to cost $7bn to complete and comprises six lines. Some of the lines exist and will be upgraded. Others – to the west of Riyadh – will be new. There will be 1,500 kilometres of new lines and upgrades to 678km of existing lines. The lines will be non-electrified, and the design speed will be 160 kilometres/hour for freight and 250 km/h for passenger services.

The first line involves upgrading the Jubail Industrial City internal network, which is currently under construction. It will require 10km of track to be built.

The second is the upgrade of the Jubail to Dammam railway line, which is also under construction. It will require 35km of track to be built.

The third line involves upgrading the Dammam to Riyadh railway line with 87km of track to be built. 

The fourth line, which is known as the Riyadh bypass, is from the existing network to the north of the city to the south. It is split into two packages; the first has 67km of track and the second has 35km.

The fifth line links Riyadh to Jeddah and then goes onto King Abdullah Port, with three stations at Jamuma, Moya and AlDoadmi. The Riyadh to Jeddah line will have 920km of track and the Jeddah to King Abdullah Port link will have 146km of track.

The sixth line is a new 172km line from King Abdullah Port to Yanbu Industrial city.

There will also be seven logistics centres at Jubail Industrial City Logistics Centre, Damman Logistics Dry Port, a relocated Riyadh Dry Port, King Khalid Airport Logistics Centre in Riyadh, Jeddah Logistics Dry Port, King Abdullah Port Logistics Centre and Yanbu Industrial City Logistics Centre.

Consultancy firms

Italian engineering design firm Italferr and its local partner Arabian Consulting Engineering Centre (ACEC) completed the design for the project in 2017.

SAR received bids from firms to provide project management services for the Landbridge project earlier this year.

The bidders included Italy’s Italferr with Spain’s Sener and US-based Hill International, US-based Parsons with France’s Egis, and France’s Systra.

The Landbridge is one of Saudi Arabia’s most anticipated infrastructure projects. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud confirmed the government’s commitment to the Landbridge project in June 2021, when he launched the National Transport & Logistics Strategy.

Plans to develop the Landbridge were announced in 2004 and revived in 2011 after being put on hold in 2010.

Saudi Arabia’s existing railway network serves passengers and freight across a track length of 5,330km, of which 450km is the Haramain high-speed railway, linking the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina. 

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