Saudi Arabia is launching one of the world's biggest mass-transit construction programs. On July 29, the Riyadh Development Authority selected three international design-build teams for contracts totaling more than $20 billion for six lines on the new subway system in Riyadh. The development authority plans to compete negotiations regarding the contracts in the next few months.

Extending more than 170 kilometers and including 87 stations, the government-funded program will entail some 600,000 tonnes of steel and over four million cubic meters of concrete. Construction on the metro system is slated to start next year; commercial operations are expected to begin in 2018.

Among the biggest winners is San Francisco-based Bechtel Inc., which is in a consortium that secured some $10 billion of work on the first two lines. "We intend to partner with the local community and businesses," says Peter Dawson, president of Bechtel's civil infrastructure business. Bechtel teamed with locally based Almabani General Contractors and Consolidated Contractors Co., along with the German equipment and railcar manufacturer Siemens A.G.

Valued at around $7.8 billion, the contract covering the fourth, fifth and sixth lines is the biggest international job ever won by a Spanish contractor, claims Madrid-based Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas S.A. (FCC). FCC leads a consortium that includes South Korea-based Samsung, Paris-based Alstom S.A. and Netherlands-based Strukton N.V.

Salini Impregilo Group, Milan, secured the third contract, valued at around $6 billion and covering the 40.7-km-long third line. The firm leads a team that includes India-based Larsen & Toubro and Canadian railcar maker Bombardier.