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A consortium led by support services company Serco has won a five-year, $185m (£120m) to provide management and technical support to Saudi Railways Company (SAR) for the 2,750km-long North South Railway.

Under the deal, Serco will operate as prime contractor and provide technical support for passenger operations on the line. Its consortium partner, Freightliner Group, will provide technical support for freight operations and the consultancy arm for UK-based track operator Network Rail will provide infrastructure support.

The consortium will help SAR to develop operating systems and procedures, provide management and technical assistance and deliver training and expertise to staff.

Dr Rumaih al Rumaih, CEO of the Saudi Railway Company (SAR), said: "In order to manage this new network, SAR went out to tender and invited a number of companies, based on their international experience in rail operations and infrastructure management, in order to support us.

"SAR's vision is to implement world-class railway practices and deliver the highest standard of technical, commercial and operational service excellence to all SAR customers, as well as to ensure the transfer of technical and operating knowledge and skills, including training, to provide long-term employment opportunities for Saudis, to operate the rail network and develop the railway industry in Saudi Arabia.

"After an extensive exercise supported by international business consultants AT Kearney, a UK consortium consisting of Serco Group, Network Rail Consulting and Freightliner Group successfully won the tender process against strong international competition, and we look forward to working with them to achieve SAR's strategic plans in a five-year commercial partnership."

David Greer, CEO of Serco Middle East, said: "Serco has many successful years of managing and providing operational support for high performing rail services internationally; in the Middle East, Australia and in the UK.

"We look forward to using these capabilities and experience, working with our consortium partners, to support the Saudi Railway Company in ensuring safe, effective and reliable services on the North South Railway in Saudi Arabia. This new contract is our first major transport win in Saudi Arabia, a country which is central to our growth plans in the Middle East."