HHR on track in Saudi Arabia

07 Nov 2011

14-strong Saudi and Spanish consortium handed Phase II of SR 30.815m HHR scheme

The Saudi Railway Organization has confirmed that a consortium of Spanish and Saudi companies has been awarded Phase II of the 444km Haramain High Speed Rail Project (HHR), linking the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City and King Abulaziz International Airport.

Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry told the Saudi Press Agency: “Negotiations have been completed with Al-Shoula consortium (comprising 14 Saudi and Spanish companies) to implement the project’s second phase.” He continued: “We have reached agreement on all points under negotiation, most importantly the implementation of the project at a cost of SR 30.815m and a supply of 35 trains, each with 13 carriages including one for first class and another restaurant cab.”

In 2009 Buro Happold and Foster + Partners (with local architect Dar Al Riyadh) were awarded the contract for four stations along the line and construction work has now commenced. The two termini and two through-stations vary in design detail yet all feature rhythmic arched roof canopies and draw on traditional Islamic architecture as a basic premise. Each volume will also offer social spaces to meet, shop, eat and shelter from the harsh sun alongside the generic transport amenities.

Phase II of the major scheme centres on the construction of railway tracks, installation of signalling and telecommunication systems, electrification, realisation of an operational control centre, the procurement of the 35 trains, and the operation and maintenance over the next 12 years. The Al Shoula consortium will also take charge of the maintenance of civil works from the Phase I contractor.

Once completed (in 2012) the Foster + Partner-designed stations will be capable of handling 60 million passengers per annum however this is expected to increase to an estimated 135 million by 2042. The new trains will travel at speeds upward of 300 km/h, meaning passengers will be able to make the journey from Makkah to Jeddah in less than half an hour and from Madinah to Jeddah in less than two hours.

As the ease and speed of these journeys should appeal to the millions of individuals travelling between the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah during the Hajj pilgrimage each year, it is hoped that the majority of travellers will shift from using private to public transport, drastically reducing energy consumption and pollution levels in Saudi Arabia.

Independent organisation Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) has issued a statement which suggests its involvement in a group including French infrastructure specialist Alstom missing out on the Phase II contract.

It reads: “The BDS National Committee (BNC) has declared a long sought-after victory as Alstom lost the bid for the second phase of the Saudi Haramain Railway project, worth $10bn US dollars, after pressure from the global BDS campaign, including effective campaigning from the newly launched KARAMA, a European campaign to Keep Alstom Rail And Metro Away.

“In 2008 the BNC, the largest Palestinian civil society coalition, with partners in Europe and Israel, launched the Derail Veolia and Alstom campaign, due to the two companies’ involvement in Israel’s illegal Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR) project, which explicitly aims to ‘Judaize Jerusalem’, according to official Israeli statements, by cementing Israel’s hold on the illegal colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in and around Jerusalem.

“Alstom...suffered substantial blows when the Swedish national pension fund AP7 excluded it from its investment portfolio, after having been excluded from the Dutch ASN Bank due to the company’s involvement in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, and has recently announced its intention to withdraw from the project.”

Sian Disson
News Editor

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