TENSIONS have risen between Spain and France in the fight for a seven billion euro contract to build the first high-speed AVE train in the Middle East.

Dubbed the ‘pilgrim train’, the 440-km fast track railway line will link the two key Saudi cities of Jeddah, Mecca and Medina.

It involves the design, construction and operation of the 350kph line that will link Jeddah to Medina in just two hours.

It comes amid concerns that a last-minute French lobbying effort could have tilted the competition in its favour.

The Spanish and French governments have been lobbying Saudi officials intensively for the last year.

With the Spanish consortium previously emerging as the most likely to secure the lucrative tender as its offer was almost 30 per cent cheaper than the French proposal.

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