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.
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.
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
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