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UK consortium wins big with Middle East consulting contract

A British rail consortium has been appointed by the Saudi Railway Company (SAR) to be its partner, providing management and technical support for infrastructure, freight and passenger operations on one of its largest rail projects, the North South Railway (NSR).

The Consortium, consisting of Serco Group plc, Network Rail Consulting and Freightliner Group, successfully won the tender process for the £120m five-year contract.

Work on the contract, which starts immediately, will see Network Rail Consulting provide technical assistance, interim management and training for infrastructure management to SAR for its flagship project.

In Serco’s first major rail project in Saudi Arabia, the company will operate as prime contractor and will provide technical support for passenger operations.  And Freightliner Group will take lead responsibility for providing freight expertise and support.

The Saudi Railway Company is a government-owned company established in 2006 by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the investment arm of Saudi Arabian Ministry of Finance.

PIF assigned SAR to develop and operate railway services comprising passenger, general freight and heavy haul. The NSR, at over 2,750km, is one of the largest rail projects currently being developed worldwide.

Dr Rumaih al Rumaih, CEO of the Saudi Railway Company (SAR), said:  “In order to manage this new network, SAR went out to tender and invited a number of companies, based on their international experience in rail operations and infrastructure management, in order to support us. 

“After an extensive exercise supported by international business consultants AT Kearney, a UK Consortium consisting of Serco Group plc, Network Rail Consulting and Freightliner Group successfully won the tender process against strong international competition, and we look forward to working with them to achieve SAR's strategic plans in a five-year commercial partnership.”

The scope of the contract, which runs for an initial five years, includes the development of world class rail freight operations, and the transfer of skills and knowledge to support the long-term development of the railway industry in Saudi Arabia.

Dom McKenna, Freightliner’s Group International director, said: “Freightliner’s proven track record of developing and operating safe and high quality rail freight services together with local partners is perfectly aligned with SAR’s strategic vision.

“This prestigious contract is part of a joint UK bid against strong international competition, and we are delighted to have been chosen to partner SAR to develop a world class railway.”

David Greer, chief executive officer of Serco Middle East, added that the company will use its vast international experience, while working with its consortium partners, to support the SAR in “ensuring safe, effective and reliable services on the NSR in Saudi Arabia”.

“This new contract is our first major transport win in Saudi Arabia, a country which is central to our growth plans in the Middle East,” he said.

The contract is also the largest secured by Network Rail Consulting, which was set up in 2012, and builds on recent successes in the Australian rail market.

Nigel Ash, managing director of Network Rail Consulting, said: “That a joint British bid has won this prestigious contract against strong international competition demonstrates that we have the right blend of knowledge, experience and expertise within our industry.

“One of our goals when we launched Network Rail Consulting in 2012 was to export British rail expertise around the world and this long term contract with SAR firmly establishes us in the Middle East, where other state owned European railway consultancy arms have been successful for many years.”

He added that the contract also allows Network Rail to share best practice with SAR on the introduction of the latest signalling and traffic management systems, which both Network Rail and SAR have purchased for their respective networks. 

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