Metro fleet decision 'on track' - bosses to announce which company will build new trains by end of January 2020
Metro bosses have confirmed they are ‘on track’ to unveil their £500 million fleet of new trains within weeks.
Transport chiefs have been in negotiations with three firms over which one will win the contract to overhaul the ageing network.
And despite the 2019 general election delaying a government funding deal, news of the decision is expected to be publicised ‘immediately following’ the conclusion of negotiations with the Department for Transport.
Tobyn Hughes, managing director at Nexus, which runs Metro services, said: “The process to award the contract for the successful bidder to build and maintain the new Metro fleet is on track to be announced before the end of the month.”
Mr Hughes was speaking at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee, made up of representatives of the five Tyne and Wear councils, Durham County Council and Northumberland County Council.
In June 2019, transport bosses for the region confirmed Spanish firm CAF, Swiss manufacturer Stadler and Japanese Hitachi had made the shortlist for the new fleet contract.
But the bidding process attracted criticism in 2019 following reports Hitachi, which built the East Coast Mainline’s new Azuma trains at its Newton Aycliffe site, in County Durham, had been ruled out early in the process.
Nexus submitted its business case to the government in November 2019.
A decision on funding worth £337 million was delayed due to the general election, but is expected to be approved in the coming weeks, allowing the fleet’s overhaul to begin in earnest.
The trains are expected to be able to take more passengers than existing rolling stock and boast air conditioning and charging points, among other features.
It is hoped this will lead to long term savings thanks to improved reliability and increased fare revenue.
But a report to regional leaders last year suggested this could be wiped out by higher maintenance costs and union demands for increased driver pay.
Industrial action, including an overtime ban and strike, affected services towards the end of 2019, but further disruption planned for this month (January) was called off by union bosses ‘pending an improved offer’ to staff.