The five bidders shortlisted to design, build and maintain a new fleet of trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro have been announced.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, has begun detailed negotiations with all five, to be narrowed down to a single preferred bidder at the end of next year.
The first new trains will be delivered two years after that to serve a network which carries more than 36 million passengers, connecting the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland, and surrounding communities in the North East.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who was in the region for the announcement on Monday, said: “The Tyne and Wear Metro has been an essential part of the public transport network in the North East for 40 years.
“That is why the Government is committed to investing nearly £340million to upgrade the fleet and secure its future for decades to come.
“We are committed to the Northern Powerhouse and northern investment. In the five years up to 2020, we will have spent £13billion improving and modernising transport in the region – a record level of investment.
“We are also investing £3billion to upgrade the Transpennine route and are proving an extra 500 carriages with space for 40,000 extra passengers and 2,000 additional services each week across the north.”
Tobyn Hughes, the managing director of Nexus, said: “Our investment in new trains will transform passengers’ experience of the Tyne and Wear Metro.
“We have issued an Invitation to Negotiate to five bidders who, between them, are building trains for many of the world’s biggest cities and rail networks. This marks an important milestone as we work with them to provide an excellent Metro for North East England for decades to come.”
The five bidders, chosen from those who submitted a selection questionnaire to Nexus earlier this summer, are: Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd; Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, S.A. (CAF; Downer EDI Rail Pty Ltd – a joint venture between Downer EDI Rail and CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co. Ltd); Hitachi Rail Europe Ltd; and Stadler Bussnang AG.
Nexus has secured Government grant funding of £337million towards the projected £362million cost of designing and building a new train fleet. This and the ongoing maintenance of the fleet over 35 years makes the total contract value about £500million.
The successful bidder will design, build and maintain a fleet and maintenance facilities that will serve Metro for 35 years, including a new depot at the existing site in Gosforth.
A detailed specification takes account of consultation with more than 3,000 Metro passengers in 2016 and 2017, followed by market engagement with train builders to refine the plans.
The shortlisted bidders are challenged to design trains which will operate efficiently and robustly, supplying a step change in Metro availability and performance, with a bright modern appearance.
Nexus wants to see trains which improve passenger flow and dwell times at stations through improved seating layouts, wider doors and stand-back areas, wide aisles, and a layout to encourage flow of passengers through the vehicle.
This is also aimed at improving passengers’ sense of security, accessibility for all and providing space for large items and luggage. There will be improved digital connectivity for passengers and air conditioning.
The successful bidder will also be responsible for maintaining the current fleet of trains.
The North East LEP is organising a supply chain event this autumn where Nexus’ short-listed bidders will have the opportunity to meet North East companies they could work with on the project.