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Bidders doubt viability of Saudi Landbridge

POTENTIAL BIDDERS for a $3.75bn high speed rail route linking the Saudi Arabian ports of Jeddah and Dammam have expressed doubts about the project’s technical and logistical viability.


They dismissed as unfeasible plans for a single contractor to design build fi nance and operate track and trains.


Saudi government ministers were in London last month to drum up support for the massive project, called the Saudi Landbridge.


The project involves up rading to high speed standard some 550km of the freight railway between the Gulf port of Dammam and Riyadh. The line was originally built in the 1950s.


Another 950km of new high speed line is planned from Riyadh to the Red Sea port of Jeddah. A 115km link from Dammam to the port of Jubail on the Gulf is also proposed.


Client Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO) plans to let the project as a privately financed build operate transfer contract.


But consultants and contractors believe SRO’s procurement plans are flawed.


‘It’s like asking a single entity to deliver the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, plus a good bit more, provide rolling stock, and to operate the whole thing, ’ said the UK representative of one Saudi contractor.


‘SRO needs to break the project down into smaller packages to reduce risk.’


Soaring trade means new freight transport capacity is urgently needed, said SRO president Khalid Alyahya.

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