Spanish manufacturer CAF has been picked as preferred bidder to build up to 25 Urbos Three trams for the new £40 million Midland Metro fleet.
Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocariles (CAF) were chosen by Centro, the West Midlands Transport Authority, as first choice from numerous overseas tram builders, as there are no tram makers in the UK.
The order will replace the current 16-strong fleet to deal with the expected growth in use of the Metro, once the 0.8 mile extension between Birmingham Snow Hill and Birmingham New Street, via Bull Street, Corporation Street, and Stephenson Street, is open.
The Urbos Three, built in Zaragoza, is a five section air-conditioned tram with a passenger capacity of around 200, compared to 156 on the current trams, and has two dedicated spaces for wheelchair users.
The new trams will start running from late 2014 on the current route from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton, with the extension from Snow Hill to New Street coming on line in 2015.
Centro said the extension would boost the West Midlands economy by £50 million a year and create 1,300 sustainable new jobs.
Geoff Inskip, chief executive of Centro, said: “This is an important milestone in the delivery of a world class integrated transport network.
“Linking the £600m investment New Street station with the Jewellery Quarter, and the Black Country will stimulate our local economy.”
If awarded the Midland Metro contract CAF, which employs around 50 people in Coventry, Edinburgh, and Belfast, will project manage the introduction of the new vehicles from Coventry.
CAF already supply trains for the UK market, including the Class 332 for the Heathrow Express and 64 Class 333 for Northern Rail.
It also has trams in use in Zaragoza, Seville and Belgrade and is manufacturing trams for Houston and Nantes.
Councillor Angus Adams, the chairman of Centro, said: “This has been an extremely rigorous tendering process and all the candidates have been of a very high standard.
“The new fleet must offer the best value for money with a tram design that offers robustness with a first-class journey experience for the passenger.”