Neues / News about the Saudi-Arabian Railway


Haramain Railway project on right track: Al-Seraisry

By FAIZ AL-MAZROUI |  Arab News 

DAMMAM: The contract for implementing the final phase of the Haramain Railway project will be awarded by the end of this year, Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry said Wednesday.

"We’ll study the financial and technical offers made by companies vying to win the contract before the end of this year to announce the winner," the minister told reporters.

The railway linking Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah would bring about a dramatic improvement in the transportation of pilgrims between the two holy cities. It will reduce travel time between Jeddah and Makkah to half an hour and two hours for those traveling between Jeddah and Madinah.

The committee supervising the project opened financial and technical offers on Tuesday in the presence of Al-Seraisry, Abdul Aziz Al-Hoqail, president of Saudi Railway Organization (SRO), and other senior officials.

"The implementation of this mega project is moving in the right direction," Al-Seraisry said. "We have called for tenders for all projects related to this vital railway."

The project’s second phase includes construction of railroads, setting up of signals, communication and electricity supply systems and the importing of trains and rail cars, Al-Hoqail said, adding that technical offers made by Al-Shola and Al-Rajhi have passed the review stage.

Financial offers for establishing five railway stations in Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah, Rabigh and Jeddah airport have already been opened, the SRO chief said. The winner of the contract will be announced later.

Al-Rajhi consortium won the first phase contract valued at SR6.79 billion. Another agreement worth SR1.8 billion was signed with Saudi Electricity Company to provide the electricity required for the high-speed trains.

The Council of Ministers has urged SRO to speed up the construction of the 450-km project. It also instructed the state-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF) to sign and finance service and business contracts for the project by providing interest-free loans.

Muhammad Al-Dahlawi, chairman of the ministry's compensation committee, said the appropriation of land for the project was going well, despite objections raised by some landowners.

Al-Dahlawi told Arab News land acquisition would be completed on time to implement the project.

He said the eight-member committee included officials from the Makkah governorate, the Finance Ministry and mayoralties in Makkah and Madinah.

The Haramain Railway will operate trains at a speed of over 300 km per hour. The project includes the construction of 450 km of high-speed electric railway lines between the three cities. It will be equipped with advanced signaling and telecommunications systems.

Highlighting the profitability of the project, a senior official said the Haramain Railway would make SR500 million in the first year. The project is part of a major railway expansion program that involves laying 950 km new tracks between Riyadh and Jeddah and a 115 km line linking Dammam and Jubail.



Passenger train mows down five railroad workers


DAMMAM: Five foreign workers were killed and another injured when a passenger train bound for Hofuf from Riyadh ran over them near the capital on Monday morning.

The dead included four Nepalese and one Indian, all men.

Another Nepalese worker who sustained multiple injuries was admitted to a nearby hospital, according to a source at the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO). The workers belonged to Archirodon Construction (Overseas) Co.

The accident happened when workers were re-laying part of a railroad.

Two rail cars carrying white stones rolled down, hitting the workers and killing five of them instantly.

The accident happened while the driver was shunting the train at a location called Kilo 407, about 25 km east of Riyadh. Authorities did not say what caused the accident.

Saudi Arabia has embarked on a massive railway expansion program.

Monday’s accident disrupted rail traffic on the route with SRO canceling two trains between Riyadh and Hofuf.

SRO’s maintenance teams are now clearing the accident site to restore normal rail services at the earliest possible opportunity.

Abdul Aziz Al-Huqail, president of SRO, promised passengers that rail services would be restored as soon as possible.

Al-Huqail said SRO has ordered a thorough probe into the accident. He expressed deep sorrow over the incident and apologized to passengers for causing them inconvenience.

On his part, Muhammad Abu Zaid, director of public relations and media at SRO, said bus transport has been arranged for passengers stranded at Riyadh and Hofuf railway stations.




SR278m deal inked for operation of industrial railway


AL-JOUF: Saudi Arabian Railway (SAR) has signed a SR278 million agreement with India’s state-owned Rites company for the operation of a major mineral railway linking the northern Jelamaid region with Ras Azzour near the industrial port city of Jubail.

Romaih bin Muhammad Al-Romaih, deputy CEO of SAR, said the contract would be valid until the end of 2013, adding that it was signed for operating the railway line for the transportation of phosphate and bauxite from Jelamaid to processors in Ras Azzour.

The new 1,486-km north-south railway, which opens by the end of this year, would make Saudi Arabia a leading supplier of phosphate and bauxite in the world. Passenger traffic on the route would start in 2013 with trains passing by Riyadh, Sudair, Qassim, Hail and Al-Jouf.

"The value of the contract depends on the volume of minerals and goods that are transported through the railway during the contract period. In accordance with present estimates, it would reach SR278 million," Al-Romaih said. "We have already constructed 800 km of railway of the 1,486 km project," he said.

SAR signed a deal in 2009 with EMD, an American company, to manufacture locomotives, and another agreement with China’s CSR company to manufacture carriages to transport phosphate. "The new locomotives and carriages will reach the Kingdom by September this year," he added.

"This railway line is very important for our mining industry as it will help transport raw minerals in a secure and economic manner. A goods train will carry 15,000 tons in one trip, the load of 600 trucks," Al-Romaih said. Last December, Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) signed a SR40.5 billion contract with Alcoa, the world leader in aluminum, for the development of a fully integrated aluminum industry in the Kingdom.

Maaden President and CEO Abdallah Dabbagh said the joint venture would become the world’s pre-eminent and lowest-cost supplier of primary aluminum, alumina and aluminum products with access to the growing markets of the Middle East. He added that the project would be implemented in two phases, that production from the aluminum smelter and rolling mill would start in 2013, and that production from the mine and refinery was expected in 2014.

Maaden will own 60 percent of the joint venture, while Alcoa and its partners the remainder.

In its initial phase, the joint venture will develop a fully integrated industrial complex including a bauxite mine with an initial capacity of 4,000,000 metric tons per year, an alumina factory with an initial capacity of 1,8000,000 (mtpy), and an aluminum smelter with initial hot-mill capacity of between 250,000 and 460,000 mtpy.

"The mill will initially focus on the production of sheet, end and tab stock for the manufacture of aluminum cans and potentially other products to serve the construction industry," Dabbagh said. The refinery, smelter and rolling mill will be established in Ras Azzour.



Haramain railway gathers steam
P.K. Abdul Ghafour |
Arab News   

JEDDAH: The Council of Ministers moved Monday to speed up the construction of the 450-km Haramain railway project, which will link the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with Jeddah and facilitate the transportation of pilgrims.

The Cabinet meeting, chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, instructed the state-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF) to sign and finance service and business contracts for the project by providing interest-free loans from its revenues.

“The PIF will be compensated for this service through budget allocations in the coming years,” Culture and Information Minister Abdul Aziz Khoja told the Saudi Press Agency. The company that is contracted to carry out the project would enjoy all the incentives and facilities given to state projects and be charged at local rates for its energy requirements.

The Cabinet instructed the Transport Ministry to provide detailed maps of the Haramain railway’s route and areas immediately to the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources.

The two ministries will then study the maps expeditiously and inform the Transport Ministry if they have any feedback, the Cabinet said. The government had earlier signed a SR6.7 billion contract with the Al-Rajhi Consortium, led by China Railway, to carry out civilian work. Dar Al-Handasa Consultants received a SR360 million contract to supervise the project while Scott Wilson won a SR89.8 million contract for the railway’s management.

President of the Saudi Railway Organization Abdul Aziz Al-Hoqail said the company would receive offers for the project’s second phase by the end of this month.

The second phase covers construction of railway lines, signal and communication systems, import of train cars and equipment and operation and maintenance.

Addressing the Cabinet meeting, King Abdullah urged ministers to complete all projects, for which allocations have been made in the budget, without delay.

The Cabinet also urged the international community to stand by Yemen in order to help the country overcome its challenges.

The Council of Ministers approved the Kingdom joining the Nuclear Safety Convention, the UN nuclear watchdog agency’s pact on maintaining safety in nuclear power plants. Saudi Arabia signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Washington in 2008 and has been in talks with Paris over the last two years for a similar agreement.



Two hurt as train derails
Faiz Al-Mazroui |
Arab News   

DAMMAM: An engine driver and his assistant were injured when the engine and three compartments of a passenger train carrying 186 passengers were derailed in the desert 77 km from Riyadh on Tuesday, according to a statement of the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO) in Dammam.

“The No. 6 Riyadh-Dammam train carrying 186 passengers in addition to 14 crew members steamed out of Riyadh station at 12.50 p.m. None of the passengers was injured,” a statement said on Tuesday.

The statement which did not specify the cause of the accident, said the movement of trains was almost stopped until the time when the statement was issued. The injured driver and the assistant driver were taken to hospital in Riyadh. The accident is being investigated by railway police.

President of SRO Abdul Aziz Al-Hoqail, said the passengers would be taken care of while two trains, one from Riyadh and another from Ahsa, were sent to the site of the accident to take passengers to their destinations.



UK firm to manage Haramain Railway
Faiz Al-Mazroui |
Arab News   

DAMMAM: Scott Wilson, market leader in providing multidisciplinary services to railways worldwide, has won a SR89.8 million contract for the management of the Haramain Railway that would link Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah.

Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf and Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry signed the deal with the UK-based company.

“This contract was signed to make use of the administrative expertise of the company in the management of big projects,” said Al-Seraisry, chairman of Saudi Railway Organization (SRO). The 450-km railroad will facilitate movement of pilgrims between Makkah and Madinah.

He said the company would provide administrative consultative services that would help SRO in the preparation of tenders and analyzing financial and technical offers on the basis of international standards.

Scott Wilson’s consultancy services cover all aspects of railroad infrastructure planning, design, project management, construction supervision and asset maintenance across the globe.

It also offers multidisciplinary rail route development, light rail, station development, high-speed rail, and rail freight consultancy.

“The Ministry of Transport is keen to complete all steps required for the implementation of the Haramain Railway project,” said Al-Seraisry. “This is one of the important transport projects in the Kingdom,” he added.

He underscored the government’s support for the expansion and privatization of railways in the Kingdom. “Expansion of railways will have a tremendous impact on the Kingdom’s economic and social development,” he said.

Abdul Aziz Al-Hoqail, president of SRO, said the organization would receive technical and financial offers for the project’s second phase by the end of next month.

The second phase covers construction of railway lines, signal and communication systems, import of train cars and equipment and operation and maintenance.

“The working team at SRO and Public Investment Fund will study the offers in order to announce the winner of the contract,” Al-Hoqail told reporters after the signing ceremony.

The government had earlier signed a SR6.7 billion contract with Al-Rajhi Consortium to carry out civilian works related to the project. Work has already started on the Madinah-Jeddah route.



Riyadh metro: Construction work begins
Ghazanfar Ali Khan |
 Arab News   

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has started construction of an ambitious light-rail project exclusively for the capital city, where 36 stations will be built in the first phase.

This project is aimed at reducing congestion in a city where 87 percent of the population uses private cars as the primary mode of transport.

“This Light Transit Railway (LTR) project for the capital city, as it is called, comes under the jurisdiction of Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA),” Mohammed Abu-zaid, a spokesman for the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO), said on Monday.

Abuzaid also pointed out that the SRO would receive eight train cars within 36 months from now from the Spanish company CAF.

“The total cost of these eight train units is about SR612 million,” said Abuzaid.

CAF signed a contract with the SRO for the supply of the trains and a four-year maintenance project.

Asked about the details of the LTR system in Riyadh, an ADA source said the final preparations to implement the project have already been made.

“The construction works have started on the two railway routes of the city,” said the source, adding that 23 stations will be built on the first route, while 13 stations will be constructed on the second rail link.

“The frequency of the services will be higher during peak hours,” said an ADA report obtained by Arab News.

“The electric metro system in Riyadh is part of the ADA’s efforts to make the public transport system more effective and popular.”

The first phase will involve the construction of a 25-km north-south route. It will extend from the northern side of the ring road to Olaya and Batha streets up to the southern ring road.

The second phase will involve a 14 km route extending from the eastern side of the ring road across King Abdulaziz Road up to King Khaled Road in the west. It is expected that the first phase of the project will cover 30 districts of the city.

Distances between stations will be 600 meters in highly populated areas and 1,100 meters to 2,000 meters in less populated areas of the city.

The rail system is expected to serve 1,500 passengers per hour per track initially and then up to 8,000 passengers per hour. Riyadh’s population has grown to over 6.5 million.



Monorail to link Jeddah districts
P.K. Abdul Ghafour |
Arab News   

JEDDAH: A SR21-billion monorail project will soon be established along Jeddah’s 12 main streets as part of a comprehensive transport system to facilitate traffic in the city. Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry yesterday presented a major plan to develop public transport in Jeddah to Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal during a meeting at the governor’s office.

“Prince Khaled heard a detailed presentation from the minister about the project which will be carried out in three phases,” the Saudi Press Agency said.

The new public transport system, which includes monorails, buses and trams linking Jeddah’s residential districts, will bring about a revolution in the city’s traffic system.

Al-Seraisry said the project also involves 816 buses, 201 stations, and dozens of tram cars. The annual operation cost of the system is estimated at SR370 million.

During the meeting, Prince Khaled urged officials to undertake the project as quickly as possible. The project will be implemented by the private sector and supervised by the ministry.

The meeting was also attended by Jeddah Mayor Adel Fakieh, Makkah Mayor Osama Al-Bar and Abdul Aziz Al-Khodairy, undersecretary at the Makkah governorate.

The plan for developing Jeddah’s public transport system was prepared by Canada’s IBI group, which provides a full range of services related to the movement of people, goods and information within and between transport facilities.

Through the application of technology and information, IBI offers intelligent transportation systems and advanced public transportation solutions to efficiently manage and operate transportation systems.

“The monorails will have a speed of 40 to 60 km per hour,” an informed source at the Transport Ministry said. The ministry is currently focusing on railway projects to improve the Kingdom’s transport system. “We have already signed contracts with leading national and international companies to implement new railway lines,” he said.

He was referring to the signing of a SR6.79 billion contract with Al-Rajhi Consortium to implement the first phase of the Haramain Railway project that will link Makkah and Madinah to Jeddah. Contracts valued at SR2.39 billion have also been signed with Saudi, French and Chinese firms to implement the North-South Railway that connects the mineral-rich Jalamid belt with smelters in Ras Al-Zour near the eastern industrial city of Jubail.



Railway to link GCC countries
P.K. Abdul Ghafour | Arab News 

JEDDAH: Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf yesterday announced plans to establish a new railway system linking the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emriates.

"GCC leaders have given preliminary approval for the project. The final decision will depend on its feasibility," Al-Assaf said after signing contracts worth SR2.39 billion to implement the remaining phases of the North-South Railway project.

He said state-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF) had so far signed contracts worth more than SR12 billion for new railway projects including the North-South Railway that connects the mineral-rich Jalamid belt with smelters in Ras Al-Zour near the eastern industrial city of Jubail.

French defense group Thales and construction giant Saudi Binladin Group were awarded an SR1.7 billion ($453 million) contract to build signaling, ticketing, communications and security systems for the 2,400-km long North-South Railway.

China's CSR Corp and the US firm ElectroMotive also won contracts valued at SR342.29 million and SR337.79 respectively. The Chinese firm will supply 668 carriages, including 524 to carry phosphate, while the American company will supply 25 locomotives, each with 4300-horsepower.

Al-Assaf, who is chairman of PIF, signed the agreements with executives of the companies during a ceremony held at the Finance Ministry, the Saudi Press Agency said. "We have gone a long way in building the North-South Railway," he said.

"The launch of the new railway in 2010 will coincide with the completion of industrial facilities in Ras Al-Zour on the Gulf coast," he said. China's Harbor Contracting and Engineering Company is building a port at Ras Al-Zour, at a cost of SR2.2 billion.

Al-Assaf said Saudi Advanced Electronics Company would participate in making some parts for signaling, ticketing, communications and security systems along with the main contractor to help transfer of technology.

"We'll try to link all parts of the project with local railway industries and research and developing the Kingdom's railway industry," SPA quoted the minister as saying.

Mansour Al-Maiman, secretary-general of PIF and chairman of Saudi Railway Company, said the North-South Railway would be ready next year for the transportation of minerals. He said the passenger railway linking Riyadh, Sudair, Qassim and Hail would be floated for tenders within a few days, adding that the work on the project would be completed by 2012.

The Kingdom's railway expansion envisages 3,900 km of new track. In addition to the Landbridge Project linking the Kingdom's east with its west, two other major new rail projects are moving closer. These include a 450-km high-speed Haramain railway to link Jeddah with Makkah and Madinah.

The North-South Railway is given priority due to its importance to industrial development. It is integral to planned phosphate and bauxite mining projects in the north of the country that will link up with processing and smelters on the Gulf coast.

"This is a strategic win for our company," said Olivier Houssin, Thales' executive vice president for commercial and security operations. "It is an area where we want to expand." He said Thales also hopes to take part in the Landbridge rail project.

Houssin said Thales was also battling to win a deal for the one-billion-dollar Saudi security fence, an Interior Ministry project aimed at securing the porous northern border with physical and high-tech barriers and monitoring.



North-South Railway to be ready for freight movement by 2010
P.K. Abdul Ghafour |
 Arab News

JEDDAH: The North-South Railway linking the Kingdom’s northern mineral belt with Riyadh and the industrial city of Jubail will be ready by next year for the freight movement, an informed source said. It will be another two years before passengers can use the railway.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Musaed Economic City in Hail will be linked with the new railway system as well as with railways in other Gulf countries, Jordan and Syria.

"Hail will make maximum use of railway projects by encouraging our youth to take up jobs in railways as well as in mineral projects," said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saad, deputy governor of Hail.

Mansour Al-Maiman, secretary-general of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and chairman of Saudi Railway Company, said work on the railroad was progressing well.

He said the passenger railway linking Riyadh, Sudair, Qassim and Hail would be floated for tenders within a few days, adding that the work on the project would be completed by 2012. He confirmed reports that the railway would be linked later with those in neighboring countries.

The Kingdom’s railway expansion envisages 3,900 km of new track. In addition to the Landbridge Project linking the Kingdom’s east with its west, two other major new rail projects are moving closer. These include a 450-km high-speed Haramain railway to link Jeddah with Makkah and Madinah.

The 2,400-km North-South Railway is given priority due to its importance to industrial development. Sponsored by the Public Investment Fund, this rail line is integral to planned phosphate and bauxite mining projects in the north of the country that will link up with processing and smelters on the Gulf coast.

Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf, chairman of PIF Board of Directors, signed a supervision agreement for the execution of the North-South Railway project with Louis Berger Group Inc. of America, SYSTRA, Canarail and Saudi Consolidated Engineering Co.

The project extends from Haditha point on the Saudi border with Jordan to Riyadh, passing through Jouf, Hail, Qassim and Sudair. The railway will connect the northern region (Al-Jalamid belt) to the Hail province (Az-Zubaira) allowing the transportation of phosphates and bauxite to Ras Azzur in the eastern part of the Kingdom and then to Jubail.

The contract valued at SR512.87 million includes on-site construction supervision, provision of technical support to the manufacture and supply of rolling stock, passenger stations, shipment yards, detailed design of signaling and control systems.

The North-South Railway is of vital strategic importance to the national economy, as the processing of phosphates, which exists in commercial quantities, will place the Kingdom second internationally in their export, besides accommodating fertilizer industry technology. It will also increase oil, agricultural and industrial products transportation, as well as goods and passengers.

The 950-km landbridge will link Jeddah with the existing Dammam-Riyadh railway. It will have a significant impact on freight traffic with containers able to transit from the Gulf to the Red Sea in 24 hours avoiding a sea voyage around the Arabian Peninsula. Mada Industrial and Commercial Investments and Binladin Group from Saudi Arabia are vying with Kuwait’s Agility (formerly PWC Logistics) and France’s Bouygues Travaux to gain the BOT contract.

Abdul Aziz Al-Hoqail, president of Saudi Railway Organization (SRO), said special panels have completed reviewing financial and technical offers of the bidders. "The matter of endorsing the winner of the contract is left for higher authorities," he said. According to a report carried by Al-Watan Arabic daily, the consortium led by Binladin Group is the lowest bidder. The winner of the contract should inform the government within a year how they will finance the project.



Makkah-Madinah railway project contract signed
Mohammed Rasooldeen |  Arab News  

RIYADH: The Kingdom has signed an SR6.79 billion agreement with Al-Rajhi Alliance to implement the first phase of the Haramain Railway project that will link the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with Jeddah by rail.

Public Investment Fund Chairman and Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf and Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry signed the agreement with Abdullah Sulaiman Al-Rajhi, chairman of the Al-Rajhi Alliance, which comprises Al-Arrab Contracting Company, China Railway 18 Bureau and Masco.

The project is being implemented at the initiative of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, who wants to provide better transport services for Haj and Umrah pilgrims.

The 450-km rail track connecting Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah will be equipped with high-speed electric trains with a capacity of 320 km per hour. It will reduce the travel time between Makkah and Madinah to two hours and between Jeddah and Makkah to 30 minutes. The trains will also transport passengers from King Abdul Aziz International Airport to the holy cities.

The first phase of the project will include preparing the ground, constructing bridges, culverts and tunnels for laying track.

“We consider it a major project in the history of transport in the Kingdom,” Al-Seraisry said, adding that the high-speed trains would not only shorten the duration of the journey but also ensure passenger comfort. “Today’s signing ceremony is the result of great efforts made by the officials of the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO) and the Public Investment Fund, which has played a vital role in screening bidders for the project,” said Al-Seraisry, who is also chairman of SRO.

He added that the agreement for subsequent phases would be signed during the course of the implementation of the first phase. His ministry is studying a report submitted by a team that visited the United States, Japan and South Korea recently to choose the best trains to suit the Kingdom’s requirements.

“We will introduce the latest engines in this project that will eventually link with the Landbridge project,” the minister said, referring to a railway expansion plan linking the Kingdom’s east and west.

Abdul Aziz Al-Hoqail, president of SRO, said the project would be completed by the middle of 2012 and pilot operations on the track would be conducted for a period of six months until its official launch in November the same year.

“Bullet trains between the two holy cities are the safest mode of conveyance for pilgrims and other passengers. The trains will be fully electric and equipped with the latest signaling and communications systems,” he added.

The second phase will include, track laying, electrification, power supply, installing communication and signaling systems and deploying rolling stock.

Abdullah Al-Rajhi said the Al-Rajhi Investment Group owns 63.75 percent of the alliance while the Chinese company has funded 21.25 percent of the total investment.

Alstom, the French maker of TGV trains, will bid for the locomotives tender. A tender for five train stations will take place in the third or fourth quarter of 2009, Al-Rajhi added.

“We are very enthusiastic about the project that is going to serve millions of pilgrims,” Samer M.S. Arafa, executive vice president of Al-Arrab, partner in the Al-Rajhi Alliance, told Arab News following the signing. He added that his company would complete the project as scheduled.



Kingdom, Turkey decide to restore historic Hejaz Railway

 RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Turkey have reaffirmed their desire to restore and rebuild the historic Hejaz Railway that linked Damascus with the holy city of Madinah by a narrow-gauge rail line. The Hejaz rail line was used by pilgrims traveling from Istanbul to the Prophet’s Mosque via the Syrian capital.

“The plan envisages restoration and modernization of the railway line by the Turkish government within its territory, while it calls on Syria and Jordan to rebuild the tracks on their sides,” said Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim during a high-profile business meeting addressed by Turkish President Abdullah Gul here yesterday.

The plan, the first since the Six-Day War interrupted a similar project in 1967, would extend the reach of the railway to its original but never completed southernmost destination: Makkah. World War I put an end to the rail line shortly after its completion in 1913.

The new plan would, if completed as envisioned, connect Istanbul to Makkah. “On the Saudi side, they do have an ambitious plan to set up railway projects,” said Yildirim. “So, when these four countries (Turkey, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia) come together, the entire project would be completed.”

No time frame for the implementation of this multinational project was provided, though Yildirim speculated that it could be completed in five years. A contract to convert the narrow-gauge line to standard gauge was signed in Jordan last year, where a portion of the rail line is still in use in the south of the country. “This railroad project needs positive efforts by the countries involved,” said Shoura member Ihsan Ali Bu-Hulaiga. “It can be of great value and even link Arab countries with European states.”

Addressing the meeting of businessmen organized by the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which was also attended by Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah Zainal Alireza and Agriculture Minister Fahd Balghunaim, Gul said, “The Kingdom and Turkey, which share identical views on a range of political and commercial issues, must boost bilateral ties.”

Gul also witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between King Saud University and Istanbul Technical University and visited the King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology yesterday.



Work on SR20bn Makkah monorail to begin after Haj
P. K. Abdul Ghafour |
Arab News  

JEDDAH: Work on the first phase of an SR20 billion Makkah monorail project will start in December soon after the Haj season to facilitate transportation of pilgrims between the holy sites of Makkah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa. The project is designed to transport five million pilgrims.

“An agreement will be signed with the winner of the contract to implement the project soon after Haj,” said Dr. Habeeb Zain Al-Abidine, deputy minister of municipal and rural affairs and secretary-general of the Commission for Development of Makkah, Madinah and the Holy Sites. Five specialized international companies, which were short-listed from 10, are competing for the multibillion dollar project, he said, adding that a meeting chaired by Prince Miteb, minister of municipal and rural affairs and chairman of the commission, would be held tomorrow to open their tenders.

Zain Al-Abidine said a feasibility study conducted by an international company had proposed five monorails linking the holy sites. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has given his approval to the project that will ease transportation of more than three million pilgrims between the holy sites.

“The feasibility study suggested the second monorail be built two to three years after the construction of the first one,” he said, adding that a single monorail would cost SR4 billion. The first monorail beginning from Mina will transport nearly one million pilgrims including 360,000 Arab pilgrims.

Monorail, which is a single rail serving as the track for a wheeled or (magnetically) levitating vehicle, has been rapidly paving its way as a modern urban transit system, providing the most-sought-after transportation solutions for a built-up congested city. The Makkah monorails will be 8 to 10 meters above the ground to ensure smooth flow of pedestrians and vehicles.

Zain Al-Abidine said the implementation of the project in the holy sites would help withdraw 25,000 buses from a total of 70,000 used by domestic pilgrims as well as pilgrims who come by land from neighboring countries. He said the system would help transport at least 500,000 pilgrims within six to eight hours.

According to the present study, monorails will have a station west of the stoning area in Mina in order to transport pilgrims to the second and fourth levels of the high-tech Jamrat Bridge.



Hijaz Railway Bridge to be reconstructed
Arab News  

MADINAH: The Madinah Municipality has decided to reconstruct the historic railway bridge near the Islamic University in Wadi Al-Aqiq neighborhood in Madinah.

“The General Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (GCTA) is collaborating with the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs in the reconstruction of the bridge as part of the GCTA program to renovate and preserve historical sites in the Kingdom,” said Ali Al-Ghaban, deputy secretary- general of the GCTA, yesterday.

The Madinah Municipality demolished the historic Hijaz Railway Bridge in 2005 because it had suffered structural damage during heavy flooding the previous year.

Commenting on the municipality’s decision to reconstruct the old bridge, GCTA’s Secretary-General Prince Sultan bin Salman said the move signified the increasing awareness in the country about the need to preserve antiquities and architectural heritages.

Al-Ghaban said Prince Sultan bin Salman also appreciated the special interest shown by Madinah Gov. Prince Abdul Aziz bin Majed in the reconstruction of the bridge.

The prince also expressed satisfaction over the efforts made by various local governments and government departments in the renovation and restoration of old buildings and sites of cultural significance particularly the mayor’s office in Asir and an ancient fort in Namas.

The Wadi Aqiq bridge was part of the Hijaz Railway completed in 1908 by Ottomans with the aim of providing easy access to Muslim pilgrims in the Middle East and Near East to Makkah and Madinah.

The demolition of the bridge had outraged the Madinah residents and historians though it was seriously damaged even before that.

The residents protested the municipality’s unimaginative act saying that it should have attempted to preserve the landmark rather than leveling it.



Train travels 10 km on wrong track
Faiz Al-Mazrouei 

Arab News

DAMMAM: The Saudi Railways Organization yesterday launched an investigation into how a Dammam-bound passenger train traveled for around 10 kilo-meters along the wrong track near Abqaiq.

"The train, which left Riyadh station early in the day on Friday, was stopped at Kilo 84, about 10 kilometers away after running on the wrong track before reaching Abqaiq station," an official source said.

The train schedule, which was disrupted as a result, resumed after the train was moved onto the right track. Railway authorities apologized to passengers for any inconvenience caused.



Company licensed to run east-west railway
P.K. Abdul Ghafour

Arab News  

JEDDAH: The much-awaited east-west railway (land bridge) project received a boost yesterday as the Council of Ministers licensed a joint stock company to establish and operate the estimated $5 billion project. "The Council of Ministers decided to license the establishment of Saudi Land Bridge Company as a closed joint stock company," the Saudi Press Agency said, quoting Economy and Planning Minister and Acting Information Minister Khaled Al-Gosaibi.

The Cabinet meeting, chaired by Crown Prince Sultan, said the new company would "establish, develop, operate and maintain the railway linking the Kingdom’s east with its west... transport passengers and goods and carry out other related activities."

Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry said the land bridge project would be completed in four years and Abdul Aziz Al-Hoqail, president of the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO), said the winner of the contract would be announced this year. The consortium that wins the project will have an 80 percent stake in the company, while the government will hold 20 percent.

The project involves the construction of 950 km of new railway track between Riyadh and Jeddah, and another 115-km line between Dammam and Jubail. It is the cornerstone of a massive multibillion-riyal railway expansion project and will be the first rail link between the Red Sea and the Gulf. Four consortia — Agility PWC Logistics Consortium, Mada Consortium, Saudi Binladin Consortium and Al-Muhaidib/ACWA (Tarabot) Consortium — have presented their financial and technical offers for implementing the project.




Hijaz Railway Revival A Real Possibility

 Jordan, Syria And Saudi Arabia To Consider Reviving Hijaz Railway

Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria recently agreed ro carry out a joint study in the next few weeks to consider utilising the Hijaz Railway, which crosses through the three countries.

The remarks were made at a meeting yesterday for the higher commission of the Hijaz Railway in the presence of Minister of Transport Alaa Batayneh, his Saudi counterpart Jobara Soraisri and Syrian counterpart Yarob Badr.

In a statements to the press, Batayneh said the three-way meeting is part of ongoing coordination between the three countries regarding railway linkage.

Batayneh, who said Iraq will soon float a tender for railway linkage with Jordan and Syria, added that the joint study will stipulate the rights of each involved country.

The Hijaz Railway is old and in need of repair to be in line with international railway standards, Batayneh said, adding that the railway, is currently used for ferrying passengers and transporting goods between Amman and Damascus.

The railway, which was originally constructed in 1908, was built at an estimated five-million Ottoman gold liras.

Yesterday's meeting, the first after seven years, also focused on mechanisms to involve the private sector in the railway linkage between the three countries.

Also yesterday, Prime Minister Nader Dahabi met with the two visiting ministers.

The premier highlighted the importance of cooperation and coordination between Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria to benefit from the railroad, which is currently run by administration representing the three countries.



Landbridge Result Now Expected In June

 $5bn Saudi Railway Deal To Be Awarded In June


Saudi Arabia's railway organization said it would name by June the winner of its estimated $5 billion project to build a 1,100 km railway across the Saudi desert.
Four groups of Saudi and international firms are vying for the 30-year contract to build and operate the rail network linking the Gulf and Red Sea coasts of the world's largest oil exporter, and final bids are now being invited.
"We will know the winner by June," Mohammad Afzal Khan, advisor to the president of the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) told newswire Reuters by telephone from Dammam.

"The group which asks for the minimum grant from the government and meets the financial models will be the preferred bidder."
Khan said the minimum grant requested was about 6.5 billion riyals ($1.73 billion), declining to name the consortium.
Two executives from Saudi construction firms bidding for the project said the minimum grant requested ranged from 6.5 billion riyals to 16 billion riyals, with total project costs estimated at more than $5 billion.

Khan declined to say how much the project would cost, but said the consortiums would have to put in 20 percent equity with the remainder coming from bank loans and the government grant.
The so-called Saudi Landbridge project includes a 950 km line between the capital Riyadh and the Red Sea port of Jeddah, as well as a 115 km link between the industrial city of Jubail and Dammam, the oil hub on the Gulf coast.
The Landbridge is one of the projects Saudi Arabia is using to tap a regional economic boom - powered by a quadrupling of oil prices in the past six years - to develop infrastructure, tourism and industry.
Kuwaiti logistics firm Agility leads one consortium with US firms KBR, General Electric and Saudi Arabia's Al Rajhi Bank.

Saudi Binladin Group heads a group including Japan's Mitsui & Company, India's Ircon International, Germany's Siemens, Deutsche Bank and Deutsche Bahn, according to the SRO website.
Rajhi Investment leads the group with Mada Company for Industrial & Commercial Investment. Other members include Canada's SNC-Lavalin and Saudi Arabia's Samba Financial Group.
The fourth consortium, led by Saudi family owned business Al-Muhaidib & Sons, includes South Korea's Samsung Engineering & Construction and French bank BNP Paribas.




Mecca - Madina Rail Link Gets The Go Ahead

 Holy Cities Rail Link Gets Green Light


Saudi King Abdullah on Wednesday gave the green light for a high-speed rail link between Islam's holy cities of Mecca and Medina via the commercial hub of Jeddah, the official SPA news agency reported.
It said the project, first mooted years ago to help transport the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who visit the kingdom for the annual hajj pilgrimage, will be financed by Saudi investment funds.
The new rail link aims to transport an estimated 10 million Umrah and Haj pilgrims every year. It includes the construction of approximately 500 kilometers of high-speed electric railway lines between the three cities.

Jeddah on the Red Sea is the required port of entry for millions of Muslims performing the year-round Umra, or minor pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.
It is also the port of entry for the main hajj which precedes the annual Feast of the Sacrifice, or Eid al-Adha, and brings together more than two million of the faithful.
The trains will travel at up to 300 kilometers (180 miles) per hour, allowing a Mecca-Jeddah journey time of half an hour and Jeddah-Medina in two hours, SPA quoted Transport Minister Jebarah bin Eid Al-Suraisri as saying.
SPA did not give an estimated cost or timetable for the project, however a spokesman for the Saudi Binladin group said in January it expected a contract worth $5 billion to be awarded at the end of this year.
The network is part of a massive kingdom-wide railway project, which also involves the construction of 950 kilometers of new tracks between Riyadh and Jeddah, and another 115 kilometers of track between Dammam and Jubail.
Last April the Saudi government awarded three contracts totaling 1.9 billion dollars for the construction of railways covering 1,766 kilometers (1,100 miles).
SPA said at the time the work was expected to take 42 months to complete.



Russian Railways Wins $800mn Saudi Deal


State-owned Russian Railways said on Monday it had won an $800 million tender from Saudi Arabia to build a 520-kilometre railway line from Riyadh airport to a key mainline junction on its giant North-South railway project.

"When the envelopes with the financial offers were opened... the Russian Railways proposal was the best," Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin said in a statement.

The rail line will connect Riyadh's King Khalid Airport with the Al-Zabira junction on Saudi Arabia's North-South railway project, which is being built to move minerals from the interior to an industrial complex to be built on the Gulf coast.

The project is one of several planned to expand the kingdom’s rail network. The Saudi Landbridge and Mecca-Medina Rail Link (MMRL) projects are expected to transform the existing rail network into a world-class freight and passenger system that will bring together the entire country.

Saudi Landbridge includes a 950-kilometre line between capital Riyadh and the Red Sea port of Jeddah, as well as a 115-kilometre link between the industrial city of Jubail and Dammam, the oil hub on the Gulf coast.

Tenders for Landbridge from four groups of Saudi and international firms were submitted in November, and the Saudi Rail Organisation (SRO) is to announce the winning bid in February.

MMRL will involve the construction of new lines linking the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina with Jeddah, the gateway to Mecca for Haj pilgrims.

SRO said in December six international groups were expected to submit proposals by January for the project.


Saudi Landbridge Contract To Be Awarded By March 2008


undefined undefinedThe Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) is expected to award the estimated US $5 billion BOT contract for the Landbridge project within the next two months according to one of the bidding consortia.

Bids for the project are currently under evaluation.

Four bidders that were pre-qualified to participate in the tender for the Saudi Landbridge Project have submitted their bids.

The bidders include Agility PWC Logistics Consortium, Mada Consortium, Saudi Binladin Consortium and Al Muhaidib/ACWA (Tarabot) Consortium.

The SRO is confident that it will be in a position to select the Winning Bidder in the first quarter of 2008.

Speaking to Construction Week, Ahmed Anees, official spokesperson for Saudi Binladin Group said: "The contract is expected to be awarded within the next two months. We were pre-qualified to bid for it and we stand a very good chance at the moment.

"We have also bid for the Makkah-Madinah Rail Project, which is also about $5 billion. That is expected to be awarded at the end of this year. We're also bidding for the Riyadh Metro project.

The Saudi Landbridge Project will transform the existing railway network in Saudi Arabia into a world-class freight and passenger network linking the east and west coasts of the country.

It will have the capability to move large quantities of cargo over long distances at competitive rates and will offer safe and comfortable overland passenger transport.

The Landbridge will connect the port cities of Jeddah, Dammam and Jubail and will pass through the capital city Riyadh, serving its dry port. The project, which is being tendered on a BOT basis, is one of the largest of its kind undertaken in the Middle East to date.




Gulf Railway Network Will Miss Out Bahrain

 Gulf Daily News Altaqata

A Proposed railway network connecting the GCC countries will not include Bahrain, it has emerged.

Transport experts from across the region gathered at a two-day conference in Dubai to discuss the issue.

But according to reports in the Dubai-based newspaper Emirates Today, the railway, which will run for 1,000km near the Gulf coast, will go from Muscat to Kuwait City and only pass through the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

It said trains will operate at speeds of up to 180kph and a GCC summit in December will decide whether to extend the line by another 1,000km to include Yemen.

The report says member countries are in the process of establishing national railway networks that will be integrated into the GCC railway network.

The World Bank's senior transport specialist Ramiz Al Assar said the Gulf line would cost $2.5bn (BD945 million) and would be ready by 2015.

"All GCC member countries are fully committed to the project and there is no going back on this vow, despite some hurdles that still need to be overcome," he told the conference.

Plans for the Gulf-wide railway line were finalised at the fourth Middle East Rail Projects Conference that ended at the Park Hyatt in Dubai yesterday.

Among the keynote speakers were director-general of the Arab Union of Railways Mourhaf Sabhouni, GCC General Secretariat transport director Sultan Al Ghanim and Dubai Roads and Transport Authority director of planning Abdulredha Abu Al Hassan.

International law firm Norton Rose was among the companies participating from Bahrain.

Plans for a railway connecting Bahrain and the GCC were first mooted in June 2004 when Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa approved the proposal at a cabinet meeting.



Saudi Railways Issues RFTPs For Makkah-Madinah Rail Link

Khaleej Times

The Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO) has issued the Request for Technical Proposals (RFTP) for the Makkah-Madinah Rail Link (MMRL) project to the six short-listed companies, according to Abdul Aziz Al Hokail, president of SRO. "The RFTP has been issued to the six consortiums of Saudi Binladen, Al Rajhi (MADA), Saudi Oger, Saudi Japanese, Al Shola MMRL and OHL," he said in a statement issued last week.

The railway project contract will also include the construction of passenger stations in the Holy City of Makkah, Jeddah Airport, Jeddah City and the Holy City of Madinah.

According to Transport Minister Jabara Al Seraisry, the 500-km Makkah-Madinah Rail Link (MMRL) project is expected to generate revenues amounting to SR500 million (US$133.3m) by 2010 and SR 750m ($186.6m) by 2030,

The project is to be implemented on a design, build, operate and transfer (DBOT) basis.

It aims at providing a safe, fast, reliable and comfortable mode of transport for Umrah and Haj pilgrims travelling between the two holy cities and Jeddah.

The MMRL includes the construction of new high-speed electrified railway lines between Jeddah and Makkah and between Jeddah and Madinah. It will be equipped with modern signalling and telecommunications systems.

SRO planned the project after observing the growing number of pilgrims who travel between Makkah and Madinah. The number is expected to grow further as a result of new regulations facilitating Umrah traffic. Nearly 2.5 million pilgrims visit the two holy cities during the Haj season.



 Rail Linking Makkah and Madinah to Cost SR20bn


P.K. Abdul Ghafour,
Arab News


JEDDAH, 9 July 2007 — Six consortia, including leading national and international companies, are vying for the Makkah-Madinah Rail Link (MMRL) project, which is estimated to cost SR20 billion ($5.33 billion) and bring about revolutionary changes in the transportation of pilgrims between the two holy cities.The competing consortia — the Al-Rajhi Consortium, the Saudi Binladin Group, Saudi Oger, the Saudi Japanese Consortium, the Al-Sholah Consortium and the OHL International — are awaiting project specifications from the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO).

Transport Minister Dr. Jabara Al-Seraisry, chairman of SRO, said the six consortia would be invited to submit their tenders within a few months. Railway contractors believe that the project would be awarded to one consortium or two consortia by the beginning of 2009 after completing studies on financial and technical offers.

The MMRL aims to provide a safe, fast, and comfortable mode of transport for an estimated 10 million Umrah and Haj pilgrims traveling between the two holy cities and Jeddah. The project will be implemented on a design, build, operate and transfer (DBOT) basis.

The MMRL includes the construction of approximately 500 kilometers of new high-speed electrified railway lines between Jeddah and Makkah and between Jeddah and Madinah. Railway lines will also be equipped with modern signaling and telecommunications systems.

The SRO has planned the project after observing the growing number of people who travel between the three cities. Nearly 2.5 million pilgrims visit the two holy cities during the Haj season. In addition, 7.5 million people, including two million in Ramadan alone, come for Umrah annually.

Emphasizing the profitability of the project, Al-Seraisry said the MMRL would make SR500 million by 2010 and SR750 million by 2030. The MMRL will also reduce travel time between Jeddah and Makkah to 30 minutes and Jeddah and Madinah to 150 minutes.

The Saudi population, which is increasing at the rate of 3.27 percent annually, will reach 39 million in 2020 and 47 million in 2030. The populations of Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah are collectively in excess of five million, with Jeddah home to about 2.8 million people.

The MMRL is part of a major railway expansion project initiated by SRO, which also involves the construction of 950 kilometers of new tracks between Riyadh and Jeddah and another 115 km line between Dammam and Jubail.

Al-Seraisry emphasized the significance of the land bridge, saying it would strengthen the Kingdom’s position on the map of regional and international transport. It would also reduce travel time between Riyadh and Jeddah by at least five hours depending on the type of trains used. Cargo trains would be able to cover the distance between Jeddah and Dammam in 24 hours.

Four consortia led by the Saudi Binladin Group, Bouygues, Mada Industrial and Commercial Investment Company, and the Public Warehouse Company (PWC) have been qualified to present their offers to win the land bridge project contract. They include a large number of contractors, companies that specialize in the railway industry and prominent Saudi investors.



SR7bn Railroad Deal Signed
Javid Hassan & Naif Al-Shehri,    Arab News


RIYADH, 4 April 2007 — The Kingdom yesterday signed contracts valued at SR7.1 billion to build a north-south railroad project covering a distance of about 1,765 km for the transport of minerals and passengers. Minister of Finance Ibrahim Al-Assaf, who is also the chairman of Public Investment Fund, signed the contracts with a consortium of three international and national companies to build the project in 42 months.

It is deemed crucial to the success of the Kingdom’s ambitious SR13.1 billion downstream oil and gas project, a multibillion fertilizer plant of the same value, and a SR22.5 billion aluminum smelter to be developed in Ras Al-Zour by Saudi Arabian Mining Co. (Maaden).

Mansour Al-Maiman, secretary-general of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and senior executives of the contracting firms Al-Rashed Co., Mitsui & Co. of Japan, Barclay Mowlem of Australia and Abdullah Al-Suwaikat, chairman of the Al-Suwaikat Group of Companies, along with the group’s Chinese partner attended the signing ceremony.

PIF has set up a holding company, Saudi Company for Railways (Saar), to implement the project. It will be funded on a 65:35 debt-to-equity ratio.

Part of the equity will be funded through an initial public offering (IPO) expected later this year. The railroad will transport raw materials — bauxite and phosphate — to Ras Al-Zour. Maaden will be looking in 2007 to finance the phosphate plant, for which a contract was signed between Saudi Basic Industries Corp. and Maaden last month.

The first contract for the Ras Al Zour-Al Zubaira Mines sector was signed with a consortium consisting of the Binladen Group (in alliance with two German firms) and Mohammed Al-Swailem Co. in partnership with a German firm. The contract, valued at SR2.3 billion, involves laying a 576 km railroad in addition to bridges, flyovers and tunnels. The second contract, worth SR1.9 billion, was given to Al-Suwaikat Group of Companies and involves laying 440 km of railroad from Zubaira to Al-Nafoud Desert, besides constructing flyovers, tunnels and bridges.

The third contract, valued at SR2.8 billion, extends it from Al-Nafoud to Al-Haditha, Hazm Al-Jalamid and Al-Basita. It was signed with Barclay Mowlem Co. of Australia in collaboration with Mitsui & Co. of Japan and Al-Rashed Co. of Saudi Arabia. It will cover about 750 km of railroad in addition to the construction of tunnels, flyovers and bridges.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, Al-Assaf said the essential goal beyond executing these projects was to transport the two minerals — phosphate and bauxite — and passengers as well as facilitate the movement of traffic among the eastern, northern and central regions of the Kingdom. He added that the project was expected to transport more than 4 million tons of commodities and two million passengers annually between cities located within the project site.




Move Under Way to Link Holy Sites by Monorail

P.K. Abdul Ghafour,  Arab News

JEDDAH, 4 April 2007 — Plans are under way to establish monorails in Makkah and the holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat in order to facilitate transport of pilgrims during the peak days of the Haj. The project is estimated to cost SR7 billion.

The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), the Transport Ministry and the Higher Commission for the Development of Makkah and Madinah have welcomed the project after reviewing a study of it. The International Transport Projects Company, which prepared the study, is currently making contacts with authorities to get the license for carrying out the project.

The monorail — a single rail, usually elevated, with trains suspended from it — will have four to eight carriages and be able to transport 20,000 passengers per hour. The company has already identified possible track lines for the monorails, which will be operating on highly powerful steel railroads supported by strong concrete pillars. After receiving government approval, the company will conduct an engineering study and coordinate with real estate development projects in Makkah, such as Jabal Omar and Jabal Khandama in order to provide them with monorail stations. Informed sources said the project would be completed within four years.

A similar project will be implemented in Madinah at a later stage.

Dr. Muhammad Naji Kurdi, adviser to the group, said the project would bring about a qualitative development in pilgrim transportation in Makkah and other holy sites. “It will also create new job opportunities for young Saudi graduates, especially in operating monorails and manufacturing carriages and their spare parts,” Al-Madinah daily quoted him as saying.

A number of multi-story parking facilities will also be constructed at the entrance of Makkah in order to help pilgrims park their cars before boarding the trains. The new project will also serve pilgrims and other passengers using the Jeddah-Makkah and Madinah-Makkah railways. Under the present plan, four monorail tracks will be established to link Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa in order to transport nearly 800,000 pilgrims during the Haj.

The rail tracks and carriages will be provided with advanced security systems. The monorails will be five and a half meters above the ground and passengers will be able to board or get off by ordinary or electric stairs.

The most important advantage of suspended monorails is that they do not obstruct traffic on the ground. They will be operated by a computer system and the tracks can be shifted easily without problems. Monorails are a secure and safe transport system with a history of nearly 100 years. They are also environment-friendly.

The proposal comes in the wake of a major railway expansion project embarked upon by the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO).


Rail Link With Southern Cities Under Study
P.K. Abdul Ghafour |
arab news

Saudi Railway Organization (SRO) is planning to establish two more railway lines linking Jeddah and Jizan as well as Taif and Khamis Mushayt. The lines will be part of a massive railway expansion program. SRO has already signed an SR3.3 million contract with an engineering consultancy firm in order to conduct a feasibility study of the two railway lines.

Khaled Alyahya, president of SRO, emphasized his organization’s strategy of linking the Kingdom’s main cities with a railway network, adding that the Supreme Economic Council had approved three railway projects: A 950-km land bridge linking the Kingdom’s east and west; a Makkah-Madinah rail link; and the northern railway linking Riyadh with the Jalamid region.

He confirmed the signing of an agreement with Dar Al-Handasa for Designs and Technical Consultancy to conduct a feasibility study on the prospects of establishing railway lines linking Jeddah with the southwestern border city of Jizan and the western summer resort of Taif with Khamis Mushayt in the southern Asir region.

The land-bridge project, which is expected to change the region’s shipping patterns, has reached advanced stages of implementation. The Council of Ministers announced last month that the government would provide financial support to the project and 50 years operational rights to the consortium that wins the contract to build the 950-km railroad. The government’s assistance will be in the form of a grant to cover part of the project cost.

Four consortia comprising Saudi and foreign companies have qualified to present their offers to carry out the land bridge project, the main thrust of the Kingdom’s railway expansion project. The land bridge project involves construction of 950 km of new tracks between Riyadh and Jeddah and a 115-km line between Dammam and Jubail.

SRO has called upon specialized national and international companies to participate in the implementation of the Makkah-Madinah Rail Link (MMRL) project by offering their bids. The MMRL includes the construction of approximately 500 kilometers of new high-speed electrified railway lines between Jeddah and Makkah and between Jeddah and Madinah. It will be equipped with modern signaling and telecommunications systems.

Work on the North-South Railway Project (NSRP) is likely to start soon. Finance Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf recently signed two contracts worth more than SR1.8 billion with Saudi firms to prepare the ground for building railroads.



Hejaz Railway Museum Opened
Yousif Muhammad |
arab news  


After more than 90 years, an important part of the historic Hejaz Railway has opened as a museum. Visitors can come during two shifts — morning and afternoon — to learn about the rail system that was immortalized in the Hollywood classic “Lawrence of Arabia”.

The museum, located near the holy mosque in Madinah, will initially be open for four months with a SR5 admission fee. Families will be happy to see the children’s playground adjoining the museum.

Mohammed Al-Shareef, a member of the Madinah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a member of the Haj and Umrah Committee at the Chamber, said that tourism officials have decided to use the remnants of the rail line as one of its regional focal points for tourism development. He said that millions of riyals had been spent in developing and restoring the site.

The railway was considered one of the greatest achievements of the Ottoman ruler Abdul Hammed II. The line connected Damascus to Madinah, and it reduced travel time between the two cities from 45 perilous days ridden with bandits to only five. Construction began in 1900 with the assistance of German engineers. The first train arrived in Madinah on Aug. 23, 1908.

The railway originally to continue on to Makkah, with the aim of not only helping pilgrims make their routes to the holy sites safer and faster, but also to help solidify the Ottoman grip on the region by strengthening trade ties between Damascus and the Hejaz Region. The train would occasionally face robberies and attacks from Arab tribes, but it nonetheless made the route considerably safer for pilgrims and traders.

A line that was originally intended for peaceful transit of pilgrims and trade fell victim to one of the world’s worst conflicts. Trains ran on the line for nine relatively peaceful years before the Ottomans sided with the Germans in WWI. This spurred the Arab Revolt against Turkish occupation of the western region of what is today Saudi Arabia. The British united with Arab guerrillas to disable the rail line because was being used to provide material support to the Central Powers.

But before war brought an end to the ambitious project, Muslims around the world were enthusiastic about building what came to be known as the Hejaz Railway. Muslims donated more than one third of the railway’s total cost and people wept with joy when the first train arrived in Madinah. They prayed for the ruler who built the rail system. While critics said that Hameed had built the line to solidify Ottoman occupation of the Hejaz region, pilgrims considered the line a Godsend.

In those days, it was no easy task to perform Haj. From Iraq, the pilgrim’s road was 1,300 kilometers long and it took a month to make the journey. From Egypt and also from Syria, the distance was some 1,500 kilometers and normally took about 40 days. Muslims outside the Middle East took anywhere from a month to six months to make the journey. (Some Muslims in those days would be gone for years from their hometowns performing Haj.) Because of problems related to safety, water and the dangers of the journey quite apart from the time needed, many Muslims were reluctant to perform Haj.

Abdul Hameed in fact had two aims when he built the Hejaz Railway. He wanted to have a means of traveling safely and quickly to Islam’s Holy Places and secondly, to unite the Muslim world against European ambitions and threats in the Islamic world. (Unfortunately, the Ottomans ended up taking sides in one of Europe’s worst tragedies.) The project, which cost millions, was not easy to pay for since the Ottoman Empire itself was in dire financial straits. Abdul Hameed, however, called for donations from Muslims all over the world and he led the way by donating from his own purse.

There was no scarcity of problems and difficulties with the route and the building of the line. The first was water. That was solved by digging wells and by bringing water in tanks on the finished sections of the railway. The Ottoman Army provided labor for the railway. Another, perhaps unforeseen, difficulty was flooding. To counter the threat, engineers built drainage systems along the railway line. Another problem was the moving sands that threatened the stability of the line. The solution was to cover the sand with clay and to build small barriers of rocks along some portions of the line.

Today, two portions of the line still operate, both in Syria, and there have been talks of rebuilding the Saudi portion of the line.

In September, The Supreme Commissions of Tourism sternly condemned Madinah city officials for demolishing part of the rail line, and has stepped up efforts to restores the remnants of the line as part of a greater effort to develop tourism. A rail line that was once hailed as an achievement of Muslim can-do unity, that later fell victim to the ravages of war and was neglected for decades, may once again rise up as a symbol of historic pride.


Railways Will Connect Jeddah’s New Airport to Holy Cities
Hasan Hatrash, Arab News


JEDDAH, 27 December 2005 — Two railroad stations will be built in Jeddah’s new King Abdul Aziz International Airport to help facilitate flow of pilgrims between Jeddah and the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, announced Abdullah Rahaimy, head of the General Authority of Civil Aviation.

“The construction of the two stations is planned with the Saudi Railway Organization to coincide with the establishment of the new airport, which is to be constructed soon,” he said.

Rahaimy was speaking to the press yesterday at the Haj Terminal during an inspection tour by Abdullah Al-Fayez, undersecretary at the Makkah governorate.

Rahaimy said the first phase of the new airport involves constructing terminals to accommodate 30 million passengers a year.

He noted that expansion projects would be studied every five years according to the growth of flight operations in the region. The projects would include development and upgrade of the current terminals, including adding new operating systems and facilities, runways, lights, and fuel connections.

The projects, he said, will start as soon as the bidding process for contractors was complete.


Saudi-arabische Bahnen ordern GSM-R

Ein Konsortium aus Siemens und der saudi-arabischen Nour Communications Company hat von der Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) den Auftrag erhalten, die Infrastruktur des saudi-arabischen Bahnnetzes zu modernisieren. Siemens wird die Strecke zwischen Dammam und Riad mit Signaltechnik, einem GSM-R-Netz und einem Videoüberwachungssystem für die Bahnübergänge ausrüsten. Die Strecke ist insgesamt rund 1000 Kilometer lang. Der Auftrag hat ein Volumen von 91 Millionen Euro; der Siemens-Anteil beträgt 59 Millionen Euro.

Der Sprechfunk zwischen Lokführer, Schaffner und Bahnhofspersonal läuft zukünftig über GSM-R. GSM-R unterstützt Leistungsmerkmale des professionellen Funks wie Rufaufbau mit einer Taste, Priorisierung von Notrufen und den Aufbau von Gesprächsgruppen. Der aus GSM-Standards für kommerzielle Handynetze entwickelte Standard GSM-Railway wird auch von der Deutschen Bahn AG und weiteren europäischen Bahngesellschaften schrittweise eingeführt. Die Infrastruktur und Endgeräte für die saudia-arabische Bahn liefert die Siemens-Sparte Communications, die in dem Auftrag den Durchbruch für GSM-R im arabischen Raum sieht. Ein weiterer GSM-R-Anbieter ist Nortel Networks. Der kanadische Telecom-Infrastrukturhersteller meldete im Frühjahr einen prestigeträchtigen GSM-R-Auftrag aus China für die höchste Eisenbahnstrecke der Welt.

Das saudi-arabische Bahnnetz besteht derzeit aus zwei Linien, die die Hafenstadt Dammam mit der Hauptstadt Riad im Landesinneren verbinden. Eine 556 Kilometer lange Strecke für den Güterverkehr wurde in den 1950er Jahren gebaut, eine 449 Kilometer lange Strecke für den Personenverkehr entstand in den 1980er Jahren. SRO befördert rund 850.000 Passagiere pro Jahr. SRO plant die Erweiterung des Bahnnetzes mit dem Ziel, eine direkte Bahnverbindung quer durch Saudi-Arabien vom Persischen Golf zum Roten Meer zu schaffen.

Über Sprechfunk-Anwendungen hinaus ermöglicht GSM-R es auch, Daten zu übertragen. Das Spektrum der Anwendungen reicht von der drahtlosen Anbindung von Fahrkartenautomaten bis hin zu sicherheitskritischen Anwendungen wie der Übertragung von Fahrerlaubnissen, Geschwindigkeitsangaben und Streckendaten, die dem Lokführer laufend via GSM-R geliefert werden. Den Einsatz von GSM-R für diese Zwecke ist im Level 2 des European Train Control System (ETCS) vorgesehen. Nähere Informationen zu ETCS finden sich auf der Website der schweizerischen Bahnen SBB AG. In Saudi-Arabien wird GSM-R jedoch ausschließlich für den Sprechfunk genutzt. Als Zugsicherungssystem liefert die Siemens-Sparte Transportation Systems eine separate Lösung namens Trainguard 100 für ETCS Level 1.

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Laut Information der englischsprachigen Tageszeitung arab news hat das Königreich einen Vertrag über 512 Millionen Saudi Rial ($ 136.8 Millionen) für den Bau mehrerer Industriebahnen mit einer Gesamtlänge von 2.400 km an ein Konsortium aus amerikanischen, kanadischen, französichen und einheimischen Firmen vergeben.

Der Zweck ist ein Abbau der grossen Phosphatvorkommen im Norden des Landes, welche auf ein Abbauvermögen von insgesamt 3.1 Billionen Tonnen geschätzt werden. Damit hat Saudi Arabien die grössten Phosphatvorkommen der Welt. 

Ausserdem wird eine Verlegung des Transportes landwirtschaftlicher Produkte aus den Farmgegenden nördlich von der Hauptstadt Riad angestrebt. Die Hauptstadt Riad erreicht mittlerweile die Einwohnerzahl von 5 Millionen.

Folgende Strecken sind geplant: Von Al-Hudaitha, nahe der Grenze zu Jordanien im Norden, bis nach Riad über Al-Jouf, Al-Zabira (Hail), Qassim und Sudair. Eine Abzweigung in Al-Zabira (Hail) führt über  Hazm Al-Jalamid nach Ras Az-Zour (südöstliche Seite des Landes zum Arabischen Golf) bis hinunter nach Jubail.

Je nach Bedarf wird ein späterer Ausbau für Personenverkehr nicht ausgeschlossen.