Spain wins high-speed rail contract for Saudi Arabia: press

AFP , Tuesday 19 Jul 2011

Spanish consortium says it has official confirmation to build a $10 billion network linking Medina, Jeddah and Mecca

High-speed rail
Chinese high-speed rail - might Saudi be in line for similar? (Photo: Reuters)

A Spanish consortium has won a contract worth 7.0 billion euros ($10 billion) to build a high-speed rail network linking Medina, Jeddah and the Muslim pilgrimage site of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Spanish media said on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Spanish rail operator Renfe, one of the leaders of the consortium along with Talgo, Adif, OHL and eight other companies, would not comment on the reports.

A spokesman for the transport ministry said "the process is very advanced, the Spanish bid is in a good position but it is not yet finalised."

The business newspaper El Economista said that Transport Minister Jose Blanco had confirmed on Monday to members of the consortium that they had won the contract.

Another business paper, Cinco Dias, said the consortium has received "the official confirmation from Saudi Arabia."

Spain's leading daily El Pais said that the Saudi Arabian partner of the Spanish consortium had also been officially informed, and all sides had been invited to discuss final technical details over the coming weeks.

Spain and France have been in stiff competition to win 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 French consortium consisted on Alstom and SNCF.

The "Al Haramain" project is aimed at transporting Muslim pilgroms between Jeddah and the two holy cities of Medina and Mecca, a distance of 450 kilometres.

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 winning consortium will supply the high-speed trains and maintain the line for a period of 12 years.

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