By Souhail Karam
Agreement is in preperation for existing and future projects in the Kingdom.
Saudi Public Transport Co (Saptco)said on Saturday it has teamed up with an affiliate of France's Regie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP)to bid for public transport projects.
Saudi Arabia is spending $400 billions in the five years to end 2013 on development projects which include several transport projects - especially tramway, high speed trains and metros - in existing or planned cities in the kingdom.
Saptco signed on Saturday a "strategic cooperation agreement" with RATP Developpement that would "enhance the two firms's competitiveness in operating and the maintenance of integrated public transportation networks," the Saudi firm said in a statement on the bourse website.
Saptco added: "(The agreement) is in preparation for existing and future opportunities and projects in the kingdom and in Gulf countries which are witnessing a growing development in the field of public transportation."
The two firms will bid for projects in Saudi cities such as Mecca, Riyadh and Medina as well as in economic cities that are under construction, Saptco said.
Saudi Arabia, a desert country more than three times the size of France, has one passenger railway of less than 400 km (248.5 miles) linking the capital Riyadh to the eastern city of Dammam. Even the most populous of Saudi cities do not have a developed public transport services.
Gulf Arab countries have paid little attention to developing integrated public transport networks because of their massive oil reserves and relatively high purchase power that allowed their citizens to easily own a car.
But this attitude has begun to change due mainly to concern over the rising death toll of road accidents and the environmental impact from a growing number of cars.
Dubai, in neighbouring UAE, launched in September a first segment of its light intra city rail, part of a project set to cost $7.6 billion.
Saptco, in which the finance ministry's Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the biggest shareholder, operates one of Saudi Arabia's most sophisticated bus transport services. (Reuters)