No final decision on Saudi high-speed train: official

20th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Saudi Railways Organisation said Wednesday no final decision has been made on the contract for a high-speed train linking Jeddah and the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

"The construction contract for this train has not been awarded to the Spanish consortium," Nadim Darwish, an SRO official, told AFP, after reports that the Spanish consortium had won the estimated 7-billion-euro ($10 billion) contract.

"There is no final decision yet," he said, without providing further details.

On Tuesday, Spanish media reported that the consortium had won, but a spokesman for Spanish rail operator Renfe, one of the leaders of the group along with Talgo, Adif, OHL and eight other companies, would not comment.

A spokesman for the transport ministry had said "the process is very advanced; the Spanish bid is in a good position but it is not yet finalised."

The business newspaper El Economista said Transport Minister Jose Blanco had confirmed on Monday to members of the consortium that they had won the contract.

Another business paper, Cinco Dias, said the consortium has received "the official confirmation from Saudi Arabia."

Spanish daily El Pais said the Saudi Arabian partner of the Spanish consortium had also been officially informed, and all sides had been invited to discuss final technical details over the coming weeks.

Spain and France have been in stiff competition for the contract, which was raised during a visit to Saudi Arabia in February by French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

Spain has been a world leader in high-speed rail networks and now has the longest such system in Europe, ahead of France.

The French consortium consists of Alstom and SNCF.

The "Al Haramain" project is aimed at transporting Muslim pilgrims between Jeddah and the two holy cities of Medina and Mecca, a distance of 450 kilometres (280 miles).

The annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca attracts some 2.5 million Muslims from around the world for a stay of two weeks on average.

The winning consortium will supply the high-speed trains and maintain the line for a period of 12 years.

© 2011 AFP

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