Prasarana eyes RM55bil rail jobs in Saudi Arabia

STATE-OWNED public transport owner and operator Prasarana Malaysia Bhd is hoping to land some of Mecca’s estimated US$16.5bil (RM55.2bil) future rail projects following its recent foray into the city in Saudi Arabia.

Prasarana announced on Thursday that it had secured a RM9mil consultancy services contract, enabling it to be the “shadow operator” for Phase One of the Makkah Public Transport Programme Metro (Makkah Metro), marking the group’s first international success.

A shadow operator provides advisory services from planning, designing and operating the city’s future rail lines.

Group managing director Datuk Seri Shahril Mokhtar tells StarBizWeek that Mecca will have four more lines totalling 182km.

It is learnt that these lines will be completed in phases between 2015 and 2022.

“The tenders for these four lines will be done in stages in one to two years and we are keen to bid for the construction job.

“I believe Prasarana, being a public transport owner and operator from a Muslim country, would carry an added advantage to bag the jobs in the holy city.

“Furthermore, we already have the knowledge as a consultant there,” he says.

Besides Prasarana, some of the international competitors that are expected to bid for the multi-billion jobs are SMRT from Singapore, MRT from Hong Kong, Serco from the UK and another transport expert from Turkey, which Prasarana had edged out in the recent shadow operator contract.

On shorter term prospects, Shahril says Prasarana is also interested in operating and maintaining the current rail line in the city, namely the 18km Al-Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro Southern Line.

Currently, the line is operated by China Railway Construction Corp alongside a local partner. This operation and maintenance (O&M) contract is expected to expire by year-end.

“The O&M tender for the A-Mashaaer Line is expected to open early next year and we are now at the discussion stage with a potential partner to participate in the bid.

“For me, it’s about time Prasarana, which has been around for 17 years, shares its knowledge and expertise in this area,” he says.

Shahril adds that the recent win enhances its position to secure the upcoming bids for the O&M jobs of the four Makkah Metro lines as well.

He also points out that Prasarana presence in Mecca will enhance its penetration in the Middle Eastern region where Jeddah and Madinah are also planning to build their own urban rail lines.

On its responsibility as the shadow operator for Makkah Metro, Shahril says Prasarana will provide O&M consultancy services to the Makkah Mass Rail Transit Co during the construction of phase one of Makkah Metro, which covers two lines, with 22 stations spanning across 45.1km, including a 24.9km underground rail network.

“We would be responsible to conduct preliminary and detailed design reviews for the project in addition to developing the O&M specifications and service agreements for the future contractor.

“We would also support and advise our client in the development of safety and security strategies, as well as rules and regulations in addition to sharing best practices for metro operations,” says Shahril.

He adds that Prasarana will also cultivate the operational culture at the client’s organisation over the 30-month contract period.

The RM9mil consultancy services contract is expected to begin in December. Phase one of the Makkah Metro is expected to be commissioned by 2019.

Prior to this, Prasarana deployed 12 technical personnel from its subsidiary, Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd, to join the team from Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd to temporarily support the operations of the Al-Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro Southern Line during the recent Hajj season.

“With all initiatives taken by the group to expand and diversify its income streams, Prasarana is on the right track to become a full-fledge organisation that is able, not only to operate and maintain billions worth of assets, but also capitalising on global business opportunities that would supplement its revenue and gradually reduce dependency on traditional fare-based revenues,” says Shahril.

In addition to supporting the Makkah Metro project abroad, Prasarana is also focused on completing the BRT-Sunway Line in mid-2015, in addition to working on the LRT Line Extension Project, as well as preparing for the operations of the Mass Rapid Transit Sungai Buloh-Kajang line.

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