Passengers are a stage further down the line to seeing the next generation of Metro trains come into being.
Manufacturing firms from around the world have been invited to begin bidding for the contracts to build and maintain the next generation of Metro trains.
The Government has allocated £337million to replace the 1980s-era cars which currently serve on the network, and the new trains will come as a godsend to regular passengers who have become frustrated by what many see as an increasingly unreliable system.
Nexus, the public body which owns and operates Metro, today officially started the process by issuing a "Selection Questionnaire" which will see the contract to build the new trains being awarded by the end of 2019.
Tobyn Hughes, the managing director of Nexus, said the process will narrow down companies competing to take part in the procurement before formal tender documents are released at the end of the summer.
This will lead to detailed negotiations taking place before a winner is chosen at the end of next year.
Mr Hughes said: “Metro makes a huge contribution to North East England’s environment and economy, and we have been supported by local businesses, our residents and our politicians in our plans for new rolling stock.
“We were delighted the Government announced it would provide capital grant for replacement of the Metro fleet and new depot facilities, meaning we can move forward with this essential programme.
“Our investment in new trains will transform passengers’ experience. We are looking for a long-term partner we will work with to provide an excellent Metro for decades to come.”
Nexus aims for the first new trains to be delivered by the end of 2021.
The Metro system which carries more than 36 million passengers a year on the network connecting the cities of Sunderland and Newcastle and surrounding communities in the North East.
The successful bidder will be asked to design, build and maintain a fleet and maintenance facilities that will serve Metro over the next 35 years, including building and running a new depot at the existing site in Gosforth, Newcastle.
Since the Government approved the funding a detailed specification has been finalised by Nexus taking account of consultation with more than 3,000 Metro passengers in 2016 and 2017, followed by market engagement with train builders to refine the plans.
Potential bidders, who must respond to the detailed questionnaire by July 9, 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".
Nexus said it wants to see trains which "improve passenger flow and dwell times at stations through improved seating layouts, wider doors and stand-back areas, wide aisles, and a layout to encourage flow of passengers through the vehicle".
This is also aimed at improving passengers’ sense of security, accessibility for all and providing space for large items and luggage. There will be improved digital connectivity for passengers, and air conditioning.
The successful bidder will also be responsible for maintaining the current fleet of trains and to ensure there is a smooth transition between the old and new fleet.
Nexus will be holding supply chain events later this year where short-listed bidders will meet local companies they could work with in the construction and maintenance of both trains and depot in the years ahead.