Modernity and technology in urban transport in Saudi Arabia

The country is holding a strong development of its urban rail transport network in order to improve the connection and  ease the life of citizens. The Riyadh metro is an ambitious project that will lead to building six lines with 176,4 km long in total and an investment of 22.500 million dollars.

Saudi Arabia has a population of just over 27 million. The most populous and most economically active cities are Riyadh (the capital), Jeddah, Makkah, Medina and Dammam. It is a country with excellent business and investment opportunities in many sectors, including rail transport. It currently has a railway network with a length of 1378 km and serves only to connect the capital and the main towns together which led to consider a major restructuring for communications both within cities and between some of them, such as the Makkah-Medina High Speed line.

As for urban transport, the metros of Riyadh, Jeddah and Makkah are the most relevant and require improved communications to help people transport.

Riyadh will have a metro with 6 lines

The metro will constitute the backbone of the public transport system in Riyadh. It is a network of six lines with a total length of 176 km and 85 stations. It is a major project which will unify and serve the most populated areas, public facilities, education areas, shops etc. Among the major unions we must highlight the King Khalid International Airport and King Abdullah Financial District, major universities, the city center and the public transport hub. The project also includes five connecting stations as well as full integration with the bus network. It aims to facilitate the transport of passengers between different levels of public transport in Riyadh. In July 2012 the construction of a public transport system was announced (which will end in late 2018) to relieve traffic in a city of 5.8 million people, which is expected to grow to 8.3 million by 2030.

On 1 August of the same year the four consortia for the construction of the subway line that had to submit a proposal within the next four months were selected. On July 29, 2013 the winners were announced.

The construction of lines 1 and 2 (63.3 km and 42 stations in total) was awarded to BACS consortium, led by Bechtel and includes Almabani General Contractors, Consolidated Contractors Company and Siemens. Line 3 was awarded to the consortium Arriyadh New Mobility, which will include the provision of engineering and architecture of the Spanish company IDOM.

The consortium led by the Spanish company FCC along with the Korean Samsung, the French Alstom, the Duth Strukton, Freyssinet Saudi Arabia and the Spanish TYPSA will be in charge of the construction of lines 4, 5 and 6 (64.6 km and 25 stations). €16,300 M will be invested to carry out all the subway system, in which Spanish companies have a high participation. Works began in 2014 and is expected to be operational by end of 2018.




This is the blue line. It will have a length of 38 kilometres and 26 stations, 4 of them with connections to other lines. It will link the north and south along Olaya street to Al-Hayer. Most of the line will run underground.


The red line linking the east and west of the city. It will have 25.3 kilometres, 16 stations and will connect King Abdullah street to the King Fahad Stadium.


The orange line will be the focus of Al-Madina Al-Munawarah Road – Prince Saad Bin Abdurrahman I Road, with a total length of 40.7 kilometres. It will have 22 stations.


It is identified with the colour yellow line and will join King Abdullah district to King Khalid International Airport. It will be 29.6 kilometres long and will have 10 stations.


Green, 12, 9 kilometres long, 12 stations and connections to two subway lines.


Violet, runs along 30 km and  will have 8 stations.

Spanish presence

The Spanish companies are taking a strong interest in this project. IDOM is responsible for the detailed design of line 3, as part of a consortium led by Salini- Impregilo. The 41 km long line (26 km high, 6 underground and 9 km in area) has 20 stations and 2 interchange stations  with Line 1 and Line 6.

IDOM is responsible for the complete design: route, tunnel, viaducts and level sections, with stations (underground and elevated, and the transfer station with Line 6), workshops, garages, and roadworks and landscaping necessary for integration into the urban landscape. An extensive and multidisciplinary team of IDOM is shifted to the Saudi capital to develop the first phase of the project. The permanent staff assigned to the project exceeds 250 professionals from different disciplines, from electrical engineers, roads, architects, telecommunications, etc.

Moreover, a consortium led by FCC was awarded the megaproject valued at just under €6,000 M  to implement three of the six new lines of Riyadh city’s subway. Along with FCC, which controls 28% of the consortium and estimated revenues of 1,700 million thanks to the project, is Alstom, which is responsible for supplying trains following the parameters used in the new line 9 of Barcelona’s subway. The budget is €1,200 M for the manufacture of 69 trains of two cars each. The trains, which operate without a driver, will be divided into three classes: first, families and singles. The firm will also provide signaling and power systems.

The joint venture between TYPSA and the British engineering Atkins (DJV) is conducting, since then, the construction consortium (FCC, SAMSUNG, Strukton, Freyssinet), the conceptual design and construction of the three lines.

TYPSA, meanwhile , is mainly responsible for the design of deep underground stations and tunnel boring machine and mine along with the remodeling of the road network and urban integration of line 3. At present, TYPSA has allocated around 110 technicians in this project which will require, at the time of maximum deployment, 250 professionals.



BACS consortium: Bechtel, General Contractors Almabani, Consolidated Contracts Company and Siemens.

Budget approx.: 10.100 M$


Arriyadh New Mobility Consortium formed by Electrical Work Group (Bombardier Transportation and Ansaldo STS), Salini-Impregilo (IDOM), Larsen & Toubro and Nesma.

Budget approx.:  5.900 M$

LÍNE 4, 5 AND 6

FAST: FCC, Samsumg, Alstom, Strukton, Freyssinet Saudi Arabia, TYPSA.
Budget approx.: 7.900 M$

Station design

Modernity and technology are the defining characteristics of subway stations.

All have been designed according to a pattern of unified architecture to give the project a unique identity.

The High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh organized an architectural competition and invited offices and most important architectural firms to provide innovative designs for the main four metro stations. The result is a city where modernity, grandeur and technology are implemented in the design.

Qasr Al-Hokm district station:



The Norwegian firm Snohetta of Norway was awarded the design. The station will serve as interchange between lines 1 and 3. The exterior is designed as an urban plaza with a large canopy to provide shade. Inside, through the reflective cover the underground levels are visually linked, as a periscope, reflecting the outside inwards and the interior outward. To make travel more pleasant, the interior will have an access to a garden that can be accessed from the orange line and platform of the blue line. In addition, natural light will get through the cover to be performed with a collection system of daylight in order to have light during the day without using energy and heat without attracting the heat to the building.

Metro Station King Abdullah Financial District:


Zaha Hadid Architects from the UK has won the competition to design the station, located in the east of the northern ring road and slightly west of King Fahd street. It will serve as an exchanger between lines 1, 4 and 6, in addition to being connected to monorail KAFD. The station has an area of 8,150 m2, overal gross area 48.000 m2.

With six platforms in four public floors and two levels of underground parking, metro station KAFD will be integrated into the urban context of the financial district in response to the functional requirements of a multimodal transportation center and the vision of the district. The project extends beyond the single station typology emphasizing the importance of building a dynamic public space, multi-function, not just a perceived middle

ground through rapid transitions, but also concerning a public space for the city . The design features the station is in the center of a network of roads, overpasses and underground lines under KAFD plan. Connectivity diagrams and traffic around the place have been mapped and structured to clearly define pedestrian routes within the building, optimize the internal circulation and avoid congestion. The resulting configuration is a three-dimensional network defined by a sequence of sine waves (generated from the repetition and variation of the frequency of daily traffic flows station) acting as a backbone building to circulation.

These waves spread over the station and point strictly their internal arrangement, moving the architectural concept abroad.

Station next to the Palace of Justice in Medina Al Munawarah Road:


IDOM is responsible for the detailed design (construction) of the track and its associated components, 41 km length and 22 stations of the Line 3. In developing the design, IDOM has achieved the perfect balance in terms of the coordination of the different disciplines involved, one of the Key Success Factors of the project. The project includes the basic and construction design of twenty-two stations developed from the several prototypes provided by the client.  In the case of underground stations, it has been necessary to develop an entirely new prototype, given the constraints imposed by the narrow streets in the neighbourhood of Batha. This has been seen by IDOM as an opportunity to increase the spatial quality of the stations and introduce natural light, improving the navigation of the stations and the overall experience for the user.  In elevated stations IDOM´s commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability assessment is one of the building’s design highlights proposed with three clear objectives: Reducing energy and water consumption, use of low environmental impact materials and minimize maintenance.Riyadh’s weather conditions are extreme with a dry climate, a very high solar radiation and high temperatures that can reach 48°C. In the original design of IDOM, the main strategy to reduce the energy consumption was based on bioclimatic concepts. Due the roof’s design, the building is able to reduce direct solar incidence while allowing maximum daylighting levels. For this purpose a series of skylights were installed facing north, reducing the demand for cooling and artificial lighting simultaneously. The roof itself was defined by means of an optimization study of photovoltaic panels, which produced 45% of the consumption of fixed installations of the building.The reuse of water is the other key strategy for assuring the water savings, because all types of water are recycled to reuse for irrigation after the required treatment..

Western Subway Station


Omrania & Associates has won the competition to design the Western subway station. With an area of 12,500 m2, the station will be built on land currently used for the Central Vegetable Market located in the district of Al-Suwaidi Al-Gharbi. The third metro line will be connected to the bus route overlooking Sheikh Muhammad Bin Abdullatif Street. This station will have a metro and bus, plus a parking area with capacity for 1,000 cars.

Alstom Spain, in charge of the security system and passenger information

Alstom has been awarded the construction of a fully automatic driverless metro system equipping three of the six lines of the city. Alstom will provide the city of Riyadh with a full comprehensive subway system that combines subsystems from the latest generation of the company. It includes rolling stock (69 Metropolis trains), the signaling system Urbalis, HESOP energy recovery system and Appitrack, a quick rail installation system that allows the installation of the tracks three times faster than using traditional methods. Alstom Spain is developing the security system and passenger information for three of the six lines with which form the future network of the Riyadh Metro. Alstom will also implement the internal wireless communications network (TETRA radio communication type) for operation and maintenance.

The technology developed by Alstom Spain integrates information from more than 5,000 teams.