THE race for one of the years most prized construction projects, the 150 million Croydon Tramlink, has narrowed to two contenders.
The Altram consortium Laing, Ansaldo Transporti and Serco will battle it out with the Tramtrack Croydon group, comprising Amey, Sir Robert McAlpine, Bombardier Eurorail, the Royal Bank of Scotland and CentreWest.
At present there seems little separating the two rivals. Both are understood to have been in intensive talks with the clients. Ansaldos trams are understood to be cheaper to buy than Tramtracks, but the latter is understood to have come up with some innovative approaches to the project.
The amount of money consortium members are prepared to put up towards the schemes costs from their own resources is also sure to carry a lot of weight. The government will be looking to minimise its contribution to the scheme.
The Department of Transport has already stated: The size of the grant will be determined by the bids received and the award of the concession is dependent on their being at a satisfactory level.
With the Tramlink concession set to run for 99 years, the choice of operator will also be of great importance. The two rivals will sweat it out until the end of this month, by which time the schemes joint promoters, London Transport and the London Borough of Croydon, should have made up their minds.
Sources close to the Croydon project claim that bidding costs for this Private Finance Initiative scheme are likely to work out at around 1 million for each of the contestants, but there is little chance of the clients contributing towards tendering costs.
One source said: Each group had to come up with its own design solutions, for example, and it is clear that only a handful of firms can handle such enormous bidding costs.
Last October, four consortia were called upon to bid for the build, finance, operate and maintain Tramlink scheme. But the bids of Croydon Connect (Tarmac/AEG/Transdev) and CT Light Rail Group (GEC Alsthom/Mowlem/Welsh Water) have not made it to the last lap.
Work on the 28 km light rail network is expected to begin in the spring.