The project, which will be financed by the state-owned Public Investment Fund, also involves the construction of 115km of track between Dammam and Jubail as well as the expansion of the existing Riyadh-Dammam Railway.
“The Cabinet adopted a number of measures regarding the land bridge project as its implementation will be the same as the North-South Railway and the Haramain High-Speed Railway, with the Public Investment Fund financing the project’s infrastructure,” said culture and information minister Abdul Aziz Khoja.
The cabinet meeting also decided that the railway’s operator would be selected after inviting tenders from specialist companies. “The state will remain the owner of the infrastructure of all present and future railway projects,” Khoja said.
Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry thanked King Abdullah for taking the initiative to implement the project, which will be the first rail link between the Red Sea and the Gulf. It will allow freight of cargo imported from East Asian countries via King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam, and from Europe and North America via Jeddah Islamic Port. This would result in more transit cargo and savings in the regional freight economy.
“This is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the region,” Al-Seraisry said without mentioning the project’s cost. According to a previous report, it was to cost more than SR26 billion (£4.3bn).
Al-Seraisry said the new railway would boost Saudi exports to foreign markets. “The land bridge along with the North-South Railway and the Haramain Railway will have a big impact on the social and economic development of the country,” he said.
In a previous meeting, the Cabinet licensed a joint stock company, the Saudi Land Bridge Company, to establish and operate the land bridge project.
The Saudi Land Bridge will primarily be a freight/container line interoperable with the North-South railway link. In the initial phase it is expected to transport 700,000 containers.
With the construction of the Jeddah-Riyadh rail link, the time taken for passenger transport will be six hours instead of the current 10 to 12 hours by bus. For freight trains the maximum travel time will be 12 hours. The design speed of passenger trains is expected to be 250kph and 140kph for freight trains. The overall time taken for freight transport services from Jeddah to Dammam is expected to be just 18 hours instead of the current five to seven days taken by sea without transshipment or eight to nine days with transshipment.