Contenders vying for a £360m contract to build and maintain a new metro fleet in Tyne and Wear have been unveiled as the transport secretary visited the north east to support future network expansion.
Chris Grayling appeared at the Metro depot in Gosforth, Newcastle, to reveal that some of the world’s largest train builders would be in the running for the contract. Among the five are Hitachi Rail Europe, Bombardier, Spanish firm CAF, Swiss company Stadler Bussnang and a joint bid submitted by Downer and CRRC.
The contract is expected to be awarded to one of five in 2019 with the first new trains set to be delivered before the end of 2021 and serving a network which carries more than 36 million passengers, connecting the cities of Sunderland and Newcastle and surrounding communities in the north east.
The money for new trains was made available last November when the North of the Tyne devolution details were announced. The region will receive £600m of funding with £337m of the governmental package ring-fenced for the replacement of the 40-year-old rolling stock on the Tyne and Wear Metro.
It marked a big breakthrough for owner and operator Nexus who has repeatedly requested money to replace old and unreliable carriages. The company itself will be committing a further £25m and together with ongoing maintenance of the fleet over 35 years, the successful bidder will win a contract valued at around £500m.
Commenting on the contract, Grayling 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 £340m 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 £13bn improving and modernising transport in the region – a record level of investment.”
Shortlisted bidders are being 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.
Tobyn Hughes, managing director of Nexus, added: “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.”