A rail link between the east and west coasts of Saudi Arabia, one of four railway projects being considered by Riyadh, is estimated to cost 6.5 billion riyals ($1.7 billion), a newspaper reported Friday, April 27.
The 950-kilometer (595-mile) link between Jeddah on the Red Sea and Dammam on the Gulf, Saudi Arabia's largest ports, is expected to boost cargo transport by 19.5 percent to 30 million tons a year, Al-Iqtissadiya business daily said.
The project will also transport 23 million passengers a year. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia has invited the private sector to construct the railways, but the authorities are still evaluating options to award the projects, with the build-operate-transfer (BOT) being favored.
Several foreign and local firms are bidding for the projects to expand the Saudi railways. Japan last year turned down a Saudi request to finance a two-billion-dollar rail link between phosphate mines in the north and industrial centers in eastern Saudi Arabia.
The decision cost Tokyo an oil-drilling concession, which Riyadh refused to renew in February 2000. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the Arabian Peninsula with a railway. It was originally built under the Ottomans to transport Muslim pilgrims to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca. — (AFP, Riyadh)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)