SAUDI ARABIA: North–South Railway project promoter Saudi Railway Co has selected a consortium of three UK-based companies to provide management and technical support for the development of passenger and freight services on its network:

  • Serco: prime contractor and technical support for passenger operations;
  • Freightliner Group: freight expertise and support, technical assistance, interim management and training;
  • Network Rail Consulting: infrastructure technical support, interim management and training.

The five-year contract announced on February 23 was awarded following an international tender supported by consultancy AT Kearney. It comes into effect immediately, and is worth £120m to consortium leader Serco.

Instead of acting as a stand-alone outsourced operator, the consortium will develop and implement operating procedures and systems for SAR. This will include the provision of management and technical assistance, along with training to support the development of local capabilities.

SAR is a government-owned company which was established by the Ministry of Finance’s Public Investment Fund in 2006 to develop and operate the North–South Railway network and other publicly-financed rail projects. ‘In order to manage this new network, SAR went out to tender and invited a number of companies, based on their international experience in rail operations and infrastructure management, in order to support us’, said CEO Dr Rumaih al-Rumaih.

‘SAR's vision is to implement world-class railway practices and deliver the highest standard of technical, commercial and operational service excellence to all SAR customers, as well as to ensure the transfer of technical and operating knowledge and skills, including training, to provide long-term employment opportunities for Saudis, to operate the rail network and develop the railway industry in Saudi Arabia.