The local Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) is set to issue an invitation for contractors to prequalify for the main construction package on the planned $7-8bn Riyadh metro project before the end of May.

The metro scheme is expected to be tendered as a number of design-and-build packages, which will include the supply of rolling stock.

The metro project is part of Riyadh’s Public Transport Project (PTP) plan that was approved by the Council of Ministers on 23 April. The plan has been prepared by the High Authority for the development of the city of Riyadh. Approval of the scheme has been well received by the region’s construction sector, after the future of the metro was brought into doubt following the omission of the scheme from the government’s proposed 2012 budget in December.

The metro network is expected to have a number of lines. The first proposed line is likely to run 25-kilometres from the northern to the southern ring road, and the second line would be 14km long, extending from east to west across Riyadh. The north to south line would contain about 25 stations, and the east to west would contain about 11 stations.

Beirut-based Dar al-Handasah and France’s Egis Rail have worked on preliminary designs for the metro project.

The proposed rail network in Riyadh has been in the planning stage for several years, but has faced numerous delays due to lack of consensus over designs and funding. ADA was expected to initially issue tender documents for a design-and-build package for the metro in early 2010, but the scheme was put on hold as it did not receive approval in the budget.

The metro project is part of Riyadh’s plans to upgrade its transport infrastructure to cope with its rapidly growing population. The current 5.3 million population of Riyadh is expected to grow to reach 8.3 million by 2025. In addition to the metro, the approved PTP contains plans for a rapid bus network to support the metro scheme.   

The Riyadh metro is the latest of a number urban rail schemes planned in the Kingdom as part of government’s efforts to expand and upgrade the country’s infrastructure.

The Mecca Mass Rail Transit (MMRT) is another major urban rail network proposed for the Kingdom. The MMRT is planned to help transport pilgrims around the western city during the busy Hajj period. The MMRT project will consist of four lines and will run for about 113km around Mecca city centre with about 24 stations. The urban rail network will also provide improved transport infrastructure for Mecca’s growing population, which is expected to expand from about 1.7 million people to 3 million people by 2035.

In March 2011, Mecca Municipality appointed advisers for the rail project. However, progress on the scheme has slowed in recent months, with the Finance Ministry currently reviewing the funding of the scheme.

A light transit rail (LRT) network is also planned in for the Red Sea Coast city of Jeddah. France’s Egis Rail completed the feasibility studies for the LRT project in August 2011, but the feasibility studies are still waiting for approval from the Jeddah Municipality and Saudi Arabia’s Transport Ministry.

The Jeddah LRT network will be 70km and will consist of three lines when complete. The first line will run from Old Mecca Road to Sari Road, the second will run along Prince Majed Street from the site of where the new Jeddah airport is to be built, to the old airport. The third line will run along Palestine Road.

The Jeddah LRT is part of the $5.6bn investment in Jeddah’s public transport system that the kingdom’s Transport Ministry announced in May 2010. The investment will also involve the development of a monorail, bus network and a tramway that will link Jeddah’s residential districts. The development of transport networks is needed to reduce the heavy congestion in the city.