The 14-month contract covers both the preliminary and detailed design phases, and includes track and structures, stations, freight facilities, signalling (ETCS Level 2) and telecommunications, and an environmental impact study. It also encompasses studies on noise mitigation and managing the impact of the harsh desert environment on the railway.
The contract was signed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Ministry of Finance, and SAR. Italferr will be assisted by Arabian Consulting Engineering Centre (ACEC), a Saudi engineering company established in 1979.
The Landbridge will consist of a 950km line from Jeddah to As Suq and Riyadh, with a 115km link between the Gulf ports of Dammam and Jubail. Trains will use the existing Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO) line between Riyadh and Dammam, which will be upgraded to accommodate increased levels of traffic. Transit times between Jeddah and Dammam will be around 18 hours, compared with the current sea voyage of 5-7 days, and the line is expected to carry around 8 million tonnes of freight per year. Passenger trains will operate at up to 220km/h with a Jeddah - Riyadh journey time of around six hours. The bus journey between the two cities currently takes 10-12 hours.