ON APRIL 7 Merseyside PTE announced that it had selected the M-PACT joint venture of GrantRail and Laing O’Rourke Civil Engineering as prime contractor for the UK’s next light rail project: Merseytram Line 1 between Liverpool and Kirkby (MR 03 p40).

Subject to contractual arrangements with the preferred bidder being completed this month, work is due to start on July 1 for completion by December 2007. Liverpool is to be European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Merseytravel Chief Executive & Director General Neil Scales said ’Line 1 will now be built, subject to final contractual arrangements, on time and below budget - a vast improvement on the situation we faced two months ago’. Having rejected the sole bid from the Mersey Express Tramway consortium on the grounds that ’certain aspects did not represent best value’, Merseytravel re-opened the competition in February and shortlisted nine bidders.

MET members Keolis and Parsons Brinckerhoff have been retained while design and ancillary work has continued on Line 1, for which the Department for Transport has agreed to provide £4·2m.

Bombardier is to supply a fleet of 21 low-floor LRVs for Lines 1 and 2. Scales told the Commons Transport Committee in March that he had reached agreement with Tramtrack Croydon Ltd to add onto his order an extra car needed for that network, which Transport for London has already agreed to fund.