Italy’s Italferr and its local partner Arabian Consulting Engineering Centre is nearing the completion of the design for the Saudi Landbridge project.

Awarded in August 2013, the initial design contract was extended for 20 months in August 2015.

The extended contract is to be completed by the end of April.

The contract was extended in 2015 by the client, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), in view of extending the railway line coverage.

The initial plan was for a 960km railway line linking the Jeddah ports on the Red Sea with Riyadh. The plans have since been upgraded to include a 1,300km line, extending from the Jeddah seaports to Dammam and Jubail on the Gulf Coast. The line will pass through the capital Riyadh and other cities such as Mecca and Taif in the Western Province, as well as linking with other transport networks.

According to Italferr, the contractual commitments undertaken include:

  • identifying the corridor
  • designing the railway line, permanent way material and all the civil engineering structures, stations, installations for train loading/unloading and container handling operations,
  • signalling system (ERTMS level 2 system)
  • telecommunications systems
  • development of all the activities relating to environmental impact
  • obtaining project approval

A source told MEED no further extension on the project design contract has been requested.

Rumaih al-Rumaih, president of Saudi Arabia’s Public Transport Authority and Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO), said earlier this month that the Saudi Landbridge project will now be procured using a public-private partnership (PPP) model.

It was the same original development model envisaged in 2005, when the project was first launched.

The line was proposed to be developed on a 50-year build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme financed through debt. Four consortiums submitted bids for the concession. After a second round of bidding, a local group of Acwa Power and Saudi Binladin Group emerged as the low bidder, but banks were understood to be wary of providing the quantities of debt required for the scheme and the project stalled.

The PPP plan was consequently dropped and the scheme was relaunched as a state-funded project, with the PIF providing the financing, in 2011.

The project is estimated to cost between $7bn and $10bn.