SPAIN has beaten its French rival in the bid for the ‘pilgrim train’.
As reported in the Olive Press, the two countries have been locked in a fight for the seven billion euro contract to build the first high-speed AVE train in the Middle East.
But now Saudi Railways Organisation has awarded the contract to the Spanish-led Al-Shoula consortium, which includes the rail operator Renfe.
“An approval has been issued on awarding the phase 2 of Haramain High Speed Rail Project (HHR) to Al-Shoula Consortium, comprising of a number of Saudi and Spanish Companies,” the Saudi Railways Organisation announced on its website.
The contract involves the design, construction and operation of the 450-km fast track railway line which will link the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina through the Red Sea-port city of Jeddah.
The two holy cities attract Muslim pilgrims all year round, and, in addition to Jeddah, make up the main centres in the western region of the oil-rich kingdom.
This latest decision comes after the Spanish and French governments have been lobbying Saudi officials intensively for the last year.
Spain is now a world leader in high-speed rail networks and has the longest such system in Europe, ahead of France.