The Saudi Arabian government has embarked on an ambitious project to build the world’s largest public transport system by awarding contracts worth USD 22.5 billion.
The design and construction contracts for the first metro rail system in Riyadh have been won by three foreign-led consortia.
Bechtel Corp, a major U.S. construction company, will be leading Germany’s Siemens Aktiengesellschaft and U.S. based AECOM to complete a USD 9.45 billion project focusing on two lines. Three other lines, costing USD 7.82 billion, will be built by a consortium of Spain’s Fomento de Construcciones Contratas, France’s Alstom Transport and South Korea’s Samsung C&T Corp. Another contract worth USD 5.12 billion was awarded to a consortium led by Italy’s Ansaldo STS.
Stretching across 176 kilometers, the project will involve six rail lines and feature electric, driverless trains. The design work of the metro system is expected to start immediately, while construction will be underway in the first quarter of 2014. The project is scheduled for a 2019 completion date.
Over the next decade, Riyadh’s population is forecast to grow from six million to over eight million and the project is key to upgrading the city’s infrastructure and improving the living standards for the local population. By investing in such projects, the government hopes to achieve diversification of the economy and reduce its reliance on income earned from oil exports.
According to government authorities, the project “will be a major driver of employment and economic development. It will also help to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.”
The economy of Saudi Arabia is enjoying booming times on the back of record high oil prices over the past two years. As part of its effort to modernize the country and avoid public discontent as seen in several Arab spring countries, the government is spending billions of dollars on infrastructure development projects. Last year, the KSA government approved a USD 16.5 billion transport system in Mecca.