Project: North-South Railway

Cost: $3.5 billion

Construction period: 2007-2013

Saudi Arabia, though late to adopt rail service, has embarked on an ambitious program that will feature both freight and passenger service.

Its North-South Railway, a 2,400-kilometer-long branching system, will link Saudi Arabia’s northern mineral belt with smelters and a port on the Persian Gulf, enabling the country to better reach export markets. Further, passenger service will connect Riyadh with cities in the north and extend to the Jordanian border.

The construction work has been divided into four phases. The Saudi Binladin Group, the nation’s largest contractor, won the phase-A contract for the 576-km segment linking the bauxite mines at Az Zabirah (recently renamed Al-Beitha) to an aluminum smelter and refining complex at Ras Azzawr (recently renamed Ras Al-Khair). This phase has been completed.

Phase B will be handled by a joint venture of China Railway 18th Bureau and Al Suwaiket Co., which will construct a 440-km section from Az Zabirah (Al-Beitha) junction to the middle of the Al Nafude desert. Construction is under way.

A consortium of Barclay Mowlem of Australia, Mitsui of Japan, and Al Rashed of Saudi Arabia is overseeing phase C, which entails building the northernmost 750-km section, from the middle of Al Nafude to the phosphate mines of Al Jalamid and Al Haditha station on the Jordanian border. This section is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2012, according to Muhammad Al Mansour, director of marketing for Saudi Railways Organization.

The phase-D contract, for the southernmost segment between Riyadh and Al Qassim, has been awarded to a joint venture composed of China Civil Engineering Construction Corp., Al-Ayuni Trading and Constructing Co. and Al-Omaier Trading and Contracting Co., and is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2013.

The overall construction will encompass 120 million cu meters of embankment fill and 60 million cu m of excavation.