GREATER Manchester PTE announced on April 3 that it had selected Stagecoach Group as preferred bidder for a contract to operate the 37?km Manchester Metrolink network. Including infrastructure and rolling stock maintenance, the 10-year contract will also cover management of upgrading projects as well as operation of several planned extensions.

Pending final negotiations, Stagecoach is expecting to take over from incumbent operator Serco within three months, adding the Manchester network to its existing Sheffield Supertram operation. As well as the combined contract where Stagecoach had been shortlisted against Keolis, GMPTE had been considering bids for two separate contracts. Carillion and First Engineering had been shortlisted for the infrastructure maintenance deal, with Stagecoach and Keolis again bidding for a contract combining operations with rolling stock maintenance.

Bombardier Transportation and electrical equipment supplier Vossloh Kiepe have been awarded a £17m contract to supply eight 28·4 m long LRVs, with options for 28 and 61 more. Each car will accommodate up to 200 passengers. They will allow more of the existing fleet of 32 LRVs to run in pairs during the peaks. The new rolling stock is due to enter service during 2009 as part of GMPTE's £100m upgrading scheme including renewals on 32 km of track on the Bury - Altrincham route this summer. Work is due for completion by mid-September.