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Saudi Arabia is to build a new rail network in partnership with the private sector
21st August 2001

 Minister of Communications Dr. Naser Al-Salloom confirmed yesterday that a special committee has almost completed its final proposals, which will be handed over to the Saudi leadership for approval.

“We are making the final touches to the report for presentation to the higher authorities, so they can take the appropriate action and issue directives,” the minister told Al-Jazirah Arabic newspaper.

Salloum highlighted the role played by the transport sector in boosting the Kingdom’s social and economic development. Addressing a group of businessmen in Riyadh, he said the rail network was one of the public ventures earmarked for privatization.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, the minister has already stated that the project will be implemented in two phases, with phase one linking Dammam and Jeddah. The second phase will see the extension of the railroad from Riyadh to the mineral-rich northwest. Future plans envisage a link between the Northern Province and the Mediterranean region, covering Jordan and Turkey.

He said the project would start after one and a half years and require five years to complete. Letters have already been sent out to Saudi businessmen inviting them to participate in the venture.

An international consortium comprising Saudi, Canadian, German and Austrian companies has come forward with a proposal to implement the multi-billion riyal project on a BOT (build, operate and transfer) basis, according to Osama Al-Kurdi, secretary-general of Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He said they have reached an understanding with the concerned government agencies in acquiring land for the railway expansion project.

The project is expected to bring down the cost of transportation, stimulate the mining sector and encourage Umrah traffic.

A meeting attended by 50 Saudi businessmen at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry has already expressed its support for the government move.

Chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Abdul Rahman Al-Jeraisy, said the private sector was ready and eager to participate in the execution of the new railway project. As well as providing travelers with an affordable and efficient transportation, he said an extensive rail network is crucial to building a successful trade and investment sector, as well as increasing productivity in the manufacturing sector by helping to boost exports.

The project, the cost of which is put at $2.1 billion (SR7.875 billion), will boost cargo transport by 19.5 percent, to 30 million tons a year. And some 23 million people are expected to use the passenger network each year.

The 1,000-km rail network will link Jeddah Islamic Port on the Red Sea in the west of the Kingdom with the ports in Dammam and Jubail on the Arabian Gulf in the east. Jeddah will also be linked with Makkah and Madinah.

The Jalameed rail project will link the Jalameed area in the Northern Province with Qassim and Riyadh and extend it to Dammam/Jubail. Jalameed has a rich concentration of phosphate. The Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maadin) plans to transport 4.5 million tons of phosphate annually from Jalameed to Jubail for extraction once the rail project is executed. It also seeks to transport bauxite from Al-Zubeira area to the aluminum factories in the Eastern Province.

Japan last year turned down a Saudi request to finance the project. The decision cost Tokyo an oil-drilling concession in Khafji, which Riyadh refused to renew in February last year.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the Arabian Peninsula with a railway. However, there is presently only one active route — between the capital and Dammam.

Referring to a highway toll plan, Al-Salloum said charges would be five halalas per kilometer on the Riyadh-Dammam, Riyadh-Jeddah, Jeddah-Makkah and Jeddah-Madinah highways. The scheme will be implemented in the near future.

Source: © Arab News

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21 August 2001 07:34:41 PM

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