RIYADH: A major contractor on Riyadh’s $22.5 billion urban rail and bus system said Monday the project is on track despite Saudi government cuts to infrastructure last year after oil revenues fell.
The Metro is the biggest infrastructure project in the history of the Saudi capital.
“We are progressing. The project is going on satisfactorily. It is a priority project” for the government, Pietro Bagnati, project director for the Italian construction group Salini Impregilo, told AFP.
His firm leads the ArRiyadh New Mobility consortium, one of three foreign groups building the six-line Metro project planned to cover 179 kilometres (109 miles) of the sprawling, congested city.
The underground and elevated rail network is to be supported by a bus system.
Asked if there had been any cuts to New Mobility’s portion of the project, the Line 3 railway covering 42 kilometres, Bagnati said: “Our contract is still the same.”
He spoke on the sidelines of the EU-GCC Business Forum which aims to strengthen trade and investment ties between the European Union and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
The EU is the Gulf’s biggest trading partner.
Construction on the Riyadh Metro began in late 2013 with 2018 the date initially targeted for completion.
EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said she understood the completion date to be 2019, and described the Metro as “the biggest global project in urban mobility”.
Bulc, who opened the EU-GCC forum, spoke to reporters later, after touring the Metro’s tunnels and stations.
“The deadlines are very demanding but so far they’re following… the deadlines well,” she said.
“As far as I could tell… it’s moving well.”
She arrived Friday in Saudi Arabia, meeting ministers and officials to focus on mutual investment opportunities.
Analysts say Saudi Arabia made significant reductions last year in its capital spending, including infrastructure, to adjust to a collapse in oil prices since 2014.
This year’s budget projects a rise in infrastructure and transport spending, to 52 billion riyals ($13.9 billion) from 37.5 billion riyals in 2016.
The government says it will finish paying early this year billions of dollars it owes to private firms, chiefly in the construction sector, after cuts to projects as oil revenues fell.