Tunnelling has begun on Saudi Arabia’s first underground rail network, the Riyadh metro, which, when complete will be one of the biggest metro systems.
The project is being carried by a consortium led by construction giant Bechtel, which is also the main delivery partner on London’s Crossrail project.
The first tunnel boring machine, Mneefah, named after the horse of Saudi Arabia’s founder King, will steadily ramp up to its planned average tunnelling rate of about 325 feet (100 metres) per week and is expected to complete its journey by mid-2016. In total, seven tunnel boring machines will be deployed by the Bechtel-led team to dig and construct more than 21 miles (more than 35 kilometers) of tunnels beneath the capital city.
Riyadh is one of the world’s fastest-growing cities, with a population expected to increase 50 percent by 2035 to 7.5 million. The Riyadh Metro is part of a 25-year strategic plan prepared by the High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh to cater for this growth. When complete, the 109-mile (176-kilometer), six-line driverless network will serve 400,000 passengers.