Nexus, the operator of the Tyne and Wear Metro in the UK, has invited three firms to place their final application for a contract to design, build and maintain a new train fleet.

The three firms, CAF, Hitachi Rail and Stadler, were selected from five shortlisted bidders, announced in September last year.

Two other shortlisted bidders Bombardier Transportation UK and a joint venture of Downer EDI Rail and CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles were eliminated from the competition.

The three selected firms are now required to submit their final offer once Nexus completes the evaluation of their initial tenders. The winner is scheduled to be announced in January.

Nexus managing director Tobyn Hughes said: “We are down to the final three bidders. Each firm has a proven track record of building trains for railway systems throughout the world.

“We have carefully evaluated the bids and will now begin the final stage of the process where bids will be refined. Bidders will then come back with best and final offers and we will sit down and pick a preferred bidder.”

The successful bidder will deliver 42 trains. Additionally, the selected company will be responsible for the maintenance of the new fleet for 35 years at a new depot in Gosforth, Newcastle.

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The new trains are expected to feature improved seating layouts, wider doors and a larger area to store luggage, as well as improved digital connectivity and air conditioning facility compared to existing trains.

Deliveries of the trains are expected to start from the end of 2021, replacing the existing metro fleet. The current train fleet will be retired in phases between 2022 and 2024.

Nexus has already secured government funding of £337m to acquire the rolling stock.