State-owned Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO) received applications for prequalification on 4 September from nine international and local consortia on the planned $5,000 million Saudi landbridge project. Under SRO's schedule, a shortlist for the build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract will be drawn up in October, which will be followed by the release of a request for proposals (RFP) in November (MEED 19:8:05).
The project will link the Red Sea coast with the Gulf via a new freight and passenger railway line. According to SRO, more than 100 local and international companies originally expressed interest in the project. Prequalification was open to consortia comprising firms operating in railway and highway construction, rail operators, railway equipment suppliers and manufacturers, shipping companies and financial investors. SRO has still to go through the documents to determine consortia leaders, although applicants include companies from Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Russia, South Korea, Spain, the UK and the US. Bids are due to be received by SRO in May 2006, with a 30-year concession to operate the landbridge rail link to be awarded in the third quarter. The successful consortium will design, finance, build and operate a 950-kilometre line between Riyadh and Jeddah and an additional 115-kilometre connection between Dammam and Jubail, and integrate the new links with the existing two lines running between Riyadh and Dammam. The railway will also be closely integrated with Jeddah Islamic Port and King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam to ensure a smooth flow of container traffic, which will make up the bulk of all traffic on the landbridge. A team of the US' Parsons Brinckerhoffand Saudi Consulting Services (SaudConsult)is carrying out a route alignment study. SRO's legal adviser is Linklaters, in partnership with the Saudi Law Office of Abdulaziz H Fahad; the technical adviser is France's Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer International (SNCFI); and a consortium of The National Commercial Bankand UBSis acting as the financial adviser.