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Spanish firms to build high-speed train to Mecca

Medina and the pilgrimage city will be linked by an AVE rail network

A Spanish consortium won a lucrative contract to build an AVE rail network in Saudi Arabia to connect the city of Medina and the Muslim pilgrimage site of Mecca, according to sources with knowledge of the bid.

The cost of the project is estimated at 6.5 billion euros with 12 Spanish firms, including Adif, Talgo and Renfe, taking part in the construction, the sources said. The consortium, which is 88 percent Spanish and 12 percent Saudi, beat out competitors from China, South Korea, Germany and France.

The French were Spain's toughest competitors. President Nicolas Sarkozy had gone to Saudi Arabia to personally lobby for the contract.

Some 450 kilometers of track across the desert will be constructed to connect Medina, Mecca and the city of Jeddah. The bid, which calls for 35 high-speed trains and the maintenance of the network for 12 years, was launched in 2006 by the Saudi Rail Organization (SRO).