The Saudi Railway Company (SAR) has awarded US-based Fluor the project management contract (PMC) for the planned Saudi Landbridge project that will link Jeddah on the Red Sea coast to the ports of Dammam and Jubail on the Gulf coast through Riyadh.

The SAR confirmed that it has sent its letter of acceptance to the US-based firm.

The other contractors that submitted bids for the project in May 2012 were US companies Aecom, Bechtel, KBR and Australian firm WorleyParsons.

The much-anticipated rail project was initially launched in 2005, but has faced several delays related to financing. Originally, the project was planned as a 50-year build, operate and transfer (BOT) scheme financed through debt. However, in August 2009, the Saudi government decided to fund the railway on its own through the state-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF), after it struggled to raise funding from private banks.

In October 2011, the PIF announced it would take control of the development of the project and appointed SAR to construct the railway.

The planned railway will cover 950 kilometres of passenger and cargo lines. About 70km of the line will comprise tunnels, needed to cut through the mountainous regions in the central part of the kingdom.

The railway will be capable of transporting 8 million tonnes of container cargo every year once complete, with passenger trains capable of travelling at speeds of 250km/h and freight trains running at a maximum of 140km/h.