Saudi Arabia is expected to award contracts for construction of the planned 115-km (72-mile) rail link between its industrial city of Jubail and Dammam before the end of 2012, a senior Saudi Railway Company (SAR) official said.
"Bids were received and they are under evaluation. The project will be awarded before the end of the year," Bashar Almalik, SAR's director of civil and track works, told a rail conference in the United Arab Emirates capital. He did not give the financial value of the contracts.
The world's top oil exporter, which is spending billions of dollars to boost its infrastructure, is building several rail systems.
The longest one will be 2,750 km, running from the capital Riyadh to near the northern border with Jordan. "Most of the network has been completed in terms of construction. Passengers and freight will hopefully start in 2014," Almalik said.
In May, Saudi Arabia started initial operations on a 1,400 km mineral line, linking phosphate mines at al-Jalamaid and a bauxite mine at Az-Zabirah to processing facilities at the industrial hub of Ras Azzour on the Gulf coast.
Almalik said design and construction contracts for a 220 km Jubail network inside Jubail were expected to be tendered early in 2013. Bids from qualified consortia for another project, the 42 km Riyadh metro, are expected next month, he added.
In July, the kingdom gave preliminary approval to four consortia, including ones led by Canada's Bombardier Inc. and French firm Vinci, to build a new metro system in Riyadh to ease congestion on its gridlocked streets.
Saudi Arabia aims to link its lines to other Gulf countries in future. A planned rail bridge to the island kingdom of Bahrain is still under consideration but no decision has been made, Almalik said, adding that the project was not as feasible economically as a line from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates.