A long-delayed plan to build a 710-kilometre-long road in Yemen is being revived by the government as part of efforts to promote economic integration and political consolidation in the country.

The plan, first envisioned in 2003, involves building a new multi-lane expressway alongside the country’s existing major artery, which begins in the southern port city of Aden and passes through Taiz, Ibb, Dhamar, Sana’a, Amran and Saada before reaching the Saudi Arabian border.

With the current road lacking the physical capacity to handle rising levels of traffic, two international consultants were hired in 2003 to conduct a feasibility study on the new Saada – Aden Yemen International Corridor Highway (Sayich). Since that time, however, the project has sat idle as the government was unable to obtain funding for the scheme.

However, during the country’s ongoing National Dialog Conference, the highway sheme was identified as a key strategic project that would be crucial for unifying the country and providing much-needed economic opportunities for the numerous communities along the corridor.

The corridor will include at least 150 rest stops, which will provide travellers with services including food, accommodation, fuel, parking spaces and emergency medical and rescue services.

The first section of the new corridor highway to be built is a 140km stretch of road between Aden and Taiz, which is of particular importance since it connects the areas of the former South and North Yemen, and so the main conflicting interest groups.

Given the project’s political importance, Saudi Arabia agreed in early 2013 to provide $320m in grants and loans for the construction of the first 85km of this section between the city of Taiz and the locality of Noubat Dokaim, and a tender for the construction of this stretch of road was floated in June.

Contracts for the civil works are expected to be awarded before the end of 2013 and construction works will start early in 2014.

The World Bank has also provided a $150m grant to support the Sayich programme, most of which would be for the construction of the remaining 55km section between Aden and Taiz, thereby completing the funding needed to complete this 140km stretch of the corridor. In late November, Yemen’s Public Works & Highways Ministry issued a tender for construction supervision services related to the 55km stretch of road. Bids for the three-year contract are due on 18 December.

The minstry is also seeking bids for consultancy services for design and feasibility studies for section 2 of the project, which entails a 214km Sanaa-Dhamar-Ibb-Taiz stretch of road. Another consultancy tender has been floated for a 92km stretch of road between Amran and Sanaa, which is part of section 3 of the Sayich programme. Financing for these projects is being provided by multiple donors, including the International Development Association.

It is expected the services on these two contracts will start in mid-2014 and shall be executed over two years. The closing date for the two tenders is 18 December.