Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has awarded a SAR270m ($72m) contract to US-based Fluor to provide management consultancy for the $7bn railway project linking the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah.

Fluor will oversee the work, including the engineering designs, setting implementation strategies and the initial operation of the project, over a period of 84 months.

The company will partner with Parsons Brinckerhoff to review the project’s engineering designs.

The contract is part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to complete the country’s railway infrastructure and build a rail line linking its east and west coasts.

The rail project will be funded by PIF and supervised by a team selected by the ministries of transport and finance, as well as the Saudi Railways Company (SAR).

SAR board chairman Mansour Al-Maiman said Fluor beat four other international companies to win the contract.

Travel times between the two cities will be six hours instead of the current 10 to 12 hours by bus.

The new rail line will be built from Jeddah Islamic Port to Riyadh, and will connect to the existing 450km line between Riyadh and Dammam, as well as with a second 115km new line planned to link Dammam with Jubail.

Several tunnels and bridges are required to be built for the 958km dual track railway, which will pass through different geographical areas.

All construction works will be overseen by SAR in close cooperation with Fluor.

Saudi Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry was quoted by as saying: "The land bridge along with the North-South Railway and the Haramain Railway will have a big impact on the social and economic development of the country."

The new rail line is expected to allow cargo to be imported from East Asian countries through King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam, and from Europe and North America via Jeddah Islamic Port.

Following completion of the Jeddah-Riyadh rail link, travel times between the two cities will be six hours instead of the current 10 to 12 hours by bus.

Passenger trains on the new line will be designed to travel at a speed of 250km/h, while freight trains will have a top speed of 140km/h to cover the distance between Dammam and Jeddah in around 12 hours.