Jeddah, Oct 6,2009
France's Alstom , China Railway Construction Corp and Germany's Siemens are among bidders for a 450-km (280 mile) railway in Saudi Arabia, an official said on Tuesday.
South Korea's Samsung C&T is also among five pre-qualified consortiums which have been asked to submit bids for the final phase of the high-speed link, one of three railway projects planned in the kingdom, said Abdul-Aziz al-Hoqail, chairman of state-owned Saudi Railway Organization (SRO).
The Haramain Railway, or the Two Holy Mosques railroad, will link the spiritual heart of Islam, Makkah, and its second-most sacred city, Medina, to the kingdom's commercial hub Jeddah on the Red Sea coast.
Up to three million pilgrims flocking to Makkah every year struggle to make it to Medina after conducting the annual haj, or back to Jeddah airport on overloaded buses and taxis.
The project is also expected to connect to King Abdullah Economic City, an ultra modern city and business hub being built from scratch.
Five contracts for the final phase of the Haramain project will cover laying tracks, installing signals and communications, providing the rolling stock, and operation and maintenance, Hoqail said.
Each consortium is led by a Saudi team and comprises a rolling stock provider, signalling and communication provider, and worldwide experienced operation and maintenance provider.
They have until January, 31 to submit their bids, Hoqail said. "We don't know the cost of the whole project yet."
Earlier this year, Saudi signed a 6.5 billion riyal ($1.73 billion) deal with a group led by Al-Rajhi Group to conduct the civil works linked to Haramain and a 142 million riyal contract with British firm Foster and Partners to design four stations for the rail link.
Last year, King Abdullah ordered that the project get funded by the finance ministry's Public Investment Fund (PIF).
"The government will fund it," Hoqail said.
Next year, SRO will seek bids for Haramain's four stations and will award their contracts before the end of June, Hoqail said.
"Hopefully by the end of 2012 we will start the commissioning of the project," he said but added commercial launch would come later.
The Haramain link will eventually be linked to a planned Gulf Arab rail network.
Saudi Arabia's two other railway projects involve a 1,000-km-long Landbridge that links the kingdom's eastern and western coasts and the North-South link which will be used for both mining and passenger transportation, reports Reuters.