RIYADH, 6 October — Saudi government research into a plan to build 2,000
kilometers of new rail track has revealed that the multi-billion-dollar project
is economically feasible, Communications Minister Nasser Al-Salloum insisted
The project will be carried out entirely by the private sector on a
build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis, he said, adding that the actual cost of the
rail links and the duration of construction will be determined through detailed
studies by consultants to be hired soon.
The main project envisages adding a 945-kilometer rail link between Riyadh
and Jeddah. This will complete the rail link between the country’s east and west
coasts through the existing 1,392-kilometer rail link between Riyadh and Dammam
in the Eastern province.
Initial estimates put the cost of this project alone at more than $1.7
billion. It is expected to boost cargo by 19.5 percent to 30 million tons, and
transport by 23 million passengers a year.
Another 610-kilometer rail link is planned to start from Riyadh and go
northwest to the Hudaitha border post with Jordan.
A third 115-kilometer railway is planned to link Dammam with the industrial
city of Jubail. And the fourth railway project is to link Jeddah with the holy
cities of Makkah and Madinah, a distance of 425 kilometers.
Salloum said the Supreme Economic Council, the Kingdom’s highest economic
decision-making body, was still looking into the project, for which several
foreign and local firms are bidding.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the Arabian peninsula with a railway. It
was originally built under the Ottomans to transport pilgrims.