Spanish consortium wins Saudi rail project
A Spanish consortium has beaten its French rival in the bidding for a Saudi contract estimated at seven billion euros ($10 billion) to build a high-speed railway, Saudi's rail authority said Wednesday.
The project aims to provide transportation for Muslim pilgrims between the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina through the Red Sea-port city of Jeddah, a distance of 450 kilometres (280 miles).
"An approval has been issued on awarding the phase 2 of Haramain High Speed Rail Project (HHR) to Al-Shoula Consortium, comprising of a number of Saudi and Spanish Companies," the Saudi Railways Organisation said on its website.
The consortium comprises Spanish rail operator Renfe, Talgo, Adif, OHL and eight other companies, while the French consortium included French rail operator SNCF and Alstom.
Spain and France had 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 second phase of the HHR project includes the construction of railway tracks, installation of signalling and telecommunication systems, electrification, operational control centre, the procurement of 35 train sets, the authority said in a statement.
It also includes the operation and maintenance for a period of 12 years.
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 two holy cities attract Muslim pilgrims all year round, and, in addition to Jeddah, make up the main centres in the western region of the oil-rich kingdom.
Considered by many as the economic capital of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah is the second most populated metropolis in the desert kingdom after the capital.
© 2011 AFP