Chairman of the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) Khaled Al-Yahya has confirmed that plans to expand the rail network are well under way, and that the entire project, approved by the Supreme Economic Council and costing around SR 10 billion [U.S. $ 2.67 billion], will take three to five years to complete. The financial and legal consultants, he said, will be announced within weeks, and confirmed that all aspects of the project are to be undertaken by the private sector. The project will link the western Red Sea port of Jeddah with the Arabian Gulf port of Dammam in the east by extending the existing Dammam-Riyadh line. Jeddah will then be linked to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, and include an extension to the port of Yanbu, thereby facilitating the transportation of pilgrims. From Riyadh, the line will be extended to the far north, and from Dammam, to Jubail; this will facilitate the transportation of minerals to Jubail Industrial City.
Saudi Arabia, with a population of over 22 million and one of the 25 largest economies in the world, needs a major railway project. SRO's chairman also revealed plans to acquire 16 new 80-seat carriages, and reported that all the existing 60 carriages had been refurbished. About 800,000 passengers use the railway line between Dammam and Riyadh every year. The new carriages are expected to increase this by 40 percent.