Train builders from around the world have been formally invited to qualify to bid for combined contracts to design, build and maintain a new fleet and depot for the Tyne and Wear Metro.
Nexus, the public body which owns and operates Metro, today officially started the process by issuing a Selection Questionnaire that will result in a contract being awarded by the end of 2019.
This will be used to narrow down companies competing to take part in the procurement before formal tender documents are released at the end of the summer, culminating in detailed negotiations taking place before a winner is chosen at the end of next year.
Nexus aims for the first new trains to be delivered by the end of 2021 for Metro, which carries over 36 million passengers a year on a network connecting the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland and surrounding communities in North East England.
Tobyn Hughes, the Managing Director of Nexus, said: “Metro makes a huge contribution to North East England’s environment and economy, and we have been supported by local businesses, our residents and our politicians in our plans for new rolling stock.
“We were delighted the Government announced it would provide capital grant for replacement of the Metro fleet and new depot facilities, meaning we can move forward with this essential programme.
“Our investment in new trains will transform passengers’ experience. We are looking for a long-term partner we will work with to provide an excellent Metro for decades to come.”
The successful bidder will be asked to design, build and maintain a fleet and maintenance facilities that will serve Metro over the next 35 years, including building and running a new depot at the existing site in Gosforth, Newcastle.
Since the Government approved the funding a detailed specification has been finalised by Nexus taking 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.
Potential bidders, who must respond to the detailed questionnaire by 9 July, 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 and to ensure there is a smooth transition between the old and new fleet.
Nexus will be holding supply chain events later this year where short-listed bidders will meet local companies they could work with in the construction and maintenance of both trains and depot in the years ahead.