SAUDI ARABIA: The national Public Transport Authority has invited international railway operators and investors to express interest in forming a long-term partnership to operate the country’s rail network.

The process forms part of the Saudi Vision 2030 programme, which aims to increase the role of the private sector in the country in an effort to increase the quality of service provision and reduce dependency on the government.

The planned contract would cover the operation of passenger and freight services on the 1 412 km Riyadh – Dammam network currently run by Saudi Railways Organization as well as on the 2 390 km North–South Railway which is managed by Saudi Railway Company.

Proposed lines such as the Riyadh – Jeddah Landbridge could also be included, but the Haramain High Speed Rail line where test running is now underway is specifically excluded.

As part of the expression of interest process, PTA is seeking to engage with potential partners to obtain input on the partnership framework, such as the optimum contract length and the degree of risk sharing. Options could include contract models that are commonly used in the international railway market or some form of closer partnership arrangement.

PTA will be hosting a dedicated event for this partnership opportunity later this year, and envisages a 'prompt' partner selection process.