UK transport authority Merseytravel has shortlisted five bidders to proceed to the next stage of procurement for the contract to build the next generation of trains for the Merseyrail suburban network.

Launched last October, the initial tender process saw bidders assessed in areas such as their capacity to deliver the work, their expertise and track record.

The next stage of the process will see the bidders make submissions specific to details of the Merseyrail project.

The shortlisted bidders include Bombardier; CAF, Siemens, Stadler and Mitsui, which has teamed up with Japan’s J-Trec and France’s Alstom.

"All of our five candidates have extensive experience of providing trains, maintenance services and depots."

Merseytravel chair Liam Robinson said: "All of our five candidates have extensive experience of providing trains, maintenance services and depots. They all have a strong international pedigree, as well as a good track record here in the UK."

Tender documents are scheduled to be released on 22 January, with bids to be submitted by the end of April.

A preferred bidder is expected to be selected towards the end of this year, and the new trains are to be delivered by the early 2020.

Capable of carrying more people and with shorter journey times, the new trains would meet the growing demand on the network and support the city region’s economic ambitions.

According to Merseytravel, the project is estimated to cost around £400m, including the associated infrastructure improvements at stations and depots.

The project will also see major reinforcement of the power supply to the network.

Merseyrail’s existing fleet includes 59 Class 507 and 508 three-car 750 V DC third-rail EMUs, which are close to the end of their operational life.

Ridership is growing by 2.5% a year and is predicted to increase by 40% by 2028.

It is reported that some parts of the Merseyrail network are predicted to be 160% filled by 2043.

According to Merseytravel, a new set of trains are also considered the best option to support the delivery of the City Region’s Long Term Rail Strategy (LTRS) by providing a fleet that could carry more passengers and run on a potentially extended network within the next 30 years to locations such as Warrington and Crewe.