Haramain project irregularities: Shoura seeks probe
The Shoura Council (consultative body) has urged the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha) to investigate the delay in the completion of the Haramain Railway project, which was originally scheduled to be finished by 2012.
“The Nazaha should also investigate the budget allocated to the Haramain Railway project and the reasons for the increase in the funds needed for the completion of the project,” the Shoura Council said in a meeting held to discuss the annual report of the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO).
The Shoura also urged the SRO to give a timeframe to get rid of the old trains. “It should explain the decreasing numbers of train passengers each year,” the council said while stressing the need for the SRO to speed up privatization efforts.
Some Shoura members called for linking the industrial city of Yanbu with the land-bridge railway project that links Riyadh with Jeddah.
The Haramain High-Speed Rail Project includes a 450km rail link between Makkah and Madinah and passes through Jeddah and Rabigh with Phase one having started in 2009. The railway will cut down travel time between the two holy cities to two hours and between Jeddah and Makkah to half an hour.
The $1.8 billion contract for Phase I was awarded in March 2009 to the Al-Rajhi Alliance, a consortium of Chinese and Saudi companies, the China Railway Engineering and Alstom Transport.
In April 2009, $38 million worth of design contracts for four of the five train stations were awarded to a joint venture between Foster & Partners and Buro Happold. In February 2010, a $96 million contract was awarded to Dar Al-Handasa consultants to supervise the project and a $24 million contract to manage the system was signed by Scott Wilson. Renfe was awarded the Phase II contract to supply 35 of the Talgo 350 high speed trains.
According to a study by the Ministry of Haj, in the next 25 years the number of pilgrims is expected to increase to more than three million and Umrah performers to more than 11 million. The annual increase is expected to be 1.4 percent for Haj and 3.14 percent for Umrah pilgrims.
Meanwhile, the Shoura pressed for the appointing of an independent body to review the functioning of the four economic cities of Rabigh, Jazan, Hail and Madinah to find out the reasons for the delay and disruption of projects there.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah launched the economic cities as part of the efforts to achieve balanced development in different parts of the Kingdom and attract foreign investment.
The Shoura asked the Economic Cities Authority to clarify the reasons for the deviation from the objective of the Knowledge Economic City in Madinah, which was originally planned to establish knowledge-based industries.
Saudi bloggers backed the Shoura’s call for inquiry into the Haramain project and economic cities. One of them suggested that the establishment of big economic and industrial cities must be stopped, saying they were eating into the country’s human and material resources. The blogger, who introduced himself as Sulaiman, said the government would do better to focus on residential cities to meet the growing housing requirements of citizens.
“The SRO must be given enough funds to carry out its present and future projects in order to improve its services,” they said.