The Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO) is ready to award the third phase of the Al Haramain high-speed rail project, which will link Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah.

The project is expected to be carried out by a Saudi consortium that will buy 35 trains and 13 carriages, install traffic signs and lay railway tracks at an estimated cost of $8bn, according to

Under this phase, the winning bidder is expected to carry out maintenance and operations of the rail project for 12 years.

During the third phase over 153 bridges will be built outside the urban area as well as 678 flood drainage canals.

The Saudi Railways Organisation awarded a $9.4bn contract to the AlShoula consortium in October last year to deliver the second phase of the Haramain project.

The contract covers the construction of 450km of high-speed track, which is expected to transport over 160,000 passengers a day.

The project involves the construction of railway tracks, electrification and an operational control centre, installation of signalling and telecommunication systems, and supply of 35 Talgo 350 trainsets.

The project will be completed in three years.

The consortium includes two Saudi Arabian and 12 Spanish companies including Spanish rail operator Renfe, Obrascon Huarte Lain, Talgo, Adif and eight others.

The 450km Makkah-Madinah rail link is part of a major railway expansion project that includes linking Jeddah with the Riyadh-Dammam railway and North-South railway systems.

The high-speed railway line will initially carry three million pilgrims per year and is being designed to carry more passengers in the future, as passenger numbers are expected to rise to 20 million within the next 25 years.

The rail track is expected to reduce travel time between Mecca and Madinah to two hours, and shorten the travel time between Jeddah and Mecca to half an hour.