Latest Rail News

13.10.14

Network Rail closes in on £100m Saudi rail contract

Network Rail is set to help a new Saudi Arabian railway run on time as it is named the preferred bidder for a contract worth up to £100m.

The contract is for the international consultancy arm of the company, which was launched in 2012 in an attempt to find alternative sources of revenue.

Sir David Higgins, its then chief executive, said at its launch that the consultancy division would be a “national champion” and “become a valuable international ambassador” for the UK rail industry.

Network Rail board minutes reveal the new deal is to work with the Saudi Railway Company, which is in charge of the biggest railway in the world currently under construction. It is planned to stretch for 1,708 miles, running from north to south and will have 148 bridges, 17 of which are being built over valleys. The £3.3bn project is intended to develop Saudi Arabia’s economy and will include freight services and passenger trains.

As the deal is worth more than £50m, approval from Network Rail’s chief executive, Mark Carne, is required, as well as the consulting arm’s board, led by managing director Nigel Ash. The final agreement is expected to be in place and signed off by the end of the year.

A Network Rail spokesman confirmed that it had been made preferred bidder “for a consulting contract in the Middle East”, but declined to give more details due to “confidentiality conflicts”.

The new deal dwarfs the previous record of £15m for advisory work on a 23 mile track in New South Wales, Australia.

The announcement of the deal comes just months after Network Rail was given a record fine of £53m in July by the rail regulator for “falling significantly short” of punctuality targets.

The disclosure of the new contract has prompted passenger groups to ask Network Rail to ensure that it is not distracted from its main role of improving UK services.

David Sidebottom, of Passenger Focus, said: “It’s important that Network Rail reassures passengers that its focus on making Britain’s railways better will not be diminished in anyway.”

(Image: c. Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) – Licensed under Creative Commons)

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