The UK’s Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has shortlisted four bidders for the contract to operate and maintain the Metrolink tram network from 2017.
The shortlisted bidders include KeolisAmey, National Express, Transdev and RATP Dev, who have all pre-qualified to bid to operate and maintain the system for ten years when the current contract ends.
In 2017, Metrolink will complete its 25 years of operation and it coincides with the opening of the Second City Crossing (2CC), the final phase of an expansion programme that has trebled the size of the original network.
Subject to the planning process and outcome of a public inquiry, work is also expected to have started on the extension of the network to Trafford Park.
TfGM CEO Dr Jon Lamonte said: "We are looking for a partner to work with us and realise the full benefits of the unprecedented growth and investment we are seeing across Metrolink.
"I am in no doubt that this is an excellent opportunity to take over the controls of the largest tram network in the country, an established Greater Manchester icon, and a symbol of Greater Manchester’s ardent ambition and appetite for growth."
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In early next year, TfGM will issue an invitation to tender and if all goes as planned, the contract is expected to be signed in January 2017.
There will also be a six-month mobilisation period with the new contract starting in July 2017.
The successful bidder will benefit from the expanded network and a large and modern fleet of trams that offer free Wi-Fi to passengers and a new level of operational resilience and flexibility afforded by 2CC, TfGM said.
The winning bidder will be expected to deliver a high-quality, safe, reliable and customer-focused service and support the major events that are held frequently across Greater Manchester.
Last September, TfGM had signed a £34m deal with Bombardier to deliver 16 new trams for use on the Metrolink network.
Bombardier’s Flexity Swift trams, which started running on the Metrolink in 2009, can accommodate up to 270 passengers, with 104 seated and 166 standing.
The trams are equipped with a passenger information system to deliver timely and relevant travelling information using Mitrac’s propulsion system.
Image: New-look Deansgate Castlefield. Photo: courtesy of Transport for Greater Manchester.