Saudi Railway Company (SAR) is inviting companies to submit bids by 26 May for the contract to carry out the detailed engineering design for the kingdom’s planned $7bn Landbridge rail project.

SAR is understood to have invited about 15 companies to bid for the detailed engineering design deal. The successful bidder is expected to complete the work in just 13 months, meaning it will have a tight time-frame in which to design a complicated project. About 70 kilometres of the railway will have to be tunnels in order to get through the mountains in central Saudi Arabia.

Companies submit expressions of interest in the project management consultancy deal for the Landbridge on 4 February. SAR is also expected to invite companies to submit bids for this contract in May, but before the deadline for the detailed engineering design bids.

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, through the kingdom’s capital Riyadh.  The project has been delayed for some time because of issues about how to best finance and develop it. 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.