Saudi Arabia has awarded three contacts worth SAR2.34bn ($623.7m) for projects related to the country’s North-South Railway project.

The contracts involve the establishment of five passenger stations, a maintenance complex in Naeeriya, 36 maintenance workshops along the railway line, a technical support office and housing units for maintenance staff.

Al-Rashid Trading & Contracting has secured the first SAR1.57bn ($418.6m) contract to build five passenger stations in Majmaa, Qassim, Hail, Al-Jouf and Qurayat, each of which will cost SAR314.4m ($83.8m). The first project is expected to be completed in two years.

The second SAR495.7m ($132m) contract has been awarded to Yabi Markazi and will involve the maintenance of locomotives, carriages and the railway track. The project also includes the establishment of fuel supply stations and will be completed within 18 months.

Sulaiman Al-Qudaibi & Sons has received another contract, worth SAR271.58m ($72m), to establish 36 small maintenance workshops, 15 of which will be for the maintenance of railway tracks and communication systems, 11 for house workers and eight for administration.

The North-South Railway project is touted as the largest railway system currently under construction and will be financed by the Public Investment Fund managed by the Ministry of Finance. After completion, the rail line will be an integral part of planned phosphate and bauxite mining projects in the north of the country, which will link up with processing plants and smelters on the Gulf Coast.

The first phase of the project, scheduled for completion in 2010, will cover about 1,700km, with the second phase reaching an additional 450km by 2013.

The passenger and freight rail line will originate in the capital city Riyadh in the north-west of the country to Al Haditha near the Jordan border. The industrial line is a 1,486km rail line from Al Jalamid (phosphate belt) in the north to Al Azbirah (bauxite belt) in the centre of the country, and will run eastwards to the processing and export facilities at Raz Az Zwar.

The North-South Railway line is being built as a part of 3,900km rail expansion plan and is expected to transport 4Mt of commodities and two million passengers every year.