Rail project seeks new funding lines
A proposed expansion of Saudi Arabia's rail system is set to be one of the biggest construction projects in the Middle East and should revolutionize freight distribution in the region.
UBS had only allocated a medium-size conference hall at its London offices for the launch of plans to build the first railway linking Saudi Arabia's major cities.
But there was standing room only by the time more than 200 bankers and contractors had piled into the bank, which, together with the Jeddah-based National Commercial Bank, is acting as adviser to the project, which conservative estimates suggest will cost $5 billion plus.
At present Saudi Arabia, though comparable in size to western Europe and among the world's 25 largest economies, has a modest 1,000km of railways, built between 25 and 50 years ago to link Riyadh and the east coast port of Dammam.
The first part of the 2,900km expansion would link the west coast port of Jeddah to Riyadh and there are plans for additional connections between Hazm Al-Jalamid, near the border with Jordan, and Riyadh, as well as between Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah. The old railway would be modernized.