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Elected mayor criticises North East transport body over procurement of train contract

Tees Valley’s Conservative elected mayor has criticised the region’s Labour councils over the reported award of a rail contact to a foreign firm instead of locally-based Hitachi Rail.

Ben Houchen called the procurement decision “disastrous”. He said that although no formal announcement of who will build the £362m new train fleet for the regional Metro was due until January “I have come to learn that this contract will be awarded to a foreign firm”.

The mayor added in a letter to Tobyn Hughes, chief executive of Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Executive Nexus: “I think it is appalling that you have come to a decision which fails to protect a major North East business and local jobs.”

He called on Nexus, which is dominated by the region’s Labour councils, to halt the bidding process.

A Nexus statement said: “The procurement of our new fleet is an ongoing process, and we have made no decision about who might be awarded the contract to design and build new trains.  

“We will not comment on any details of the respective bids from the final three companies involved - Hitachi Rail, Stadler or CAF - at this stage. The successful bidder will be announced in the new year when we have completed detailed and thorough evaluation.”

It said the successful bidder would design, build and maintain a fleet and maintenance facilities for 35 years, and provide a new depot at Gosforth.

“The three shortlisted bidders 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,” it said.

Mark Smulian