Small to medium businesses can get on board WA’s railcar manufacturing industry with the State Government naming French multinational Alstom as its preferred proponent to build 246 railcars at a new manufacturing hub in Bellevue.

The government has decreed that 50 per cent of the railcars must be made in WA in a deal worth $1.6 billion over 10 years.

As the biggest order of railcars in the state’s history, it will establish a pipeline of work for WA suppliers eager to be part of the rejuvenation of WA’s railcar manufacturing industry.

Businesses can apply for up to $20,000 in the Metronet railcar procurement round of the State Government’s local capability fund, with applications due by August 30.

The round of funding will help small and medium business meet essential pre-qualification criteria for supply chain entry, buy plant and equipment and cover consultancy costs. Click here for more details.

Previous funding rounds for Metronet railcar procurement and the Western Australian Industry Participation Strategy saw 64 WA businesses receive grants worth more than $950,000.

Since the Midland railway workshops were closed in 1994, new trains have been mostly built in Queensland with minor commissioning works carried out in WA such as removing transport bogies and replacing them with narrow bogies suitable for Perth’s inner city trainlines.

Construction on the first stage of the $30 million Bellevue plant is expected to start next year with completion due in 2021. Construction of the following stages – including a new railcar depot and diesel facility – will continue until 2023.

Once the contract is finalised later this year, Alstom will also be responsible for maintaining the fleet of railcars for the next 30 years.

From 2022 the new trains will run on the Mandurah and Joondalup lines initially, as they have the highest patronage demand and service frequency.

While the final design and features of the railcars are still to be finalised, the six-car trains will carry about 1200 passengers and have an operational life of 35 years.

Additional and wider than normal passenger doors will make it easier to get on and off, while technology including USB charging points, LED lighting and regenerative braking will also be installed to make the new trains more efficient.

“Currently the work carried out locally is limited to window tinting and passenger seating, just 2 per cent of the work – WA can do so much more than that,” Premier Mark McGowan said.

“So we’re bringing railcar manufacturing back to WA and back to its home in the Midland area, with a new railcar facility in Bellevue.

“It means hundreds of quality, local jobs, more training and apprenticeship opportunities for our kids and WA made trains, on our new WA built Metronet lines.”

Alstom has been in Victoria for 100 years. It has supplied Australia’s first fully automated trains in Sydney, which began operating two months ago, and more than 600 railcars for Melbourne’s suburban network.

Alstom Australia-New Zealand Managing Director Mark Coxon said the company was delighted by this week’s announcement.

“We look forward to building on our existing local footprint and partnering with the State of WA in this exciting new phase of local railway manufacturing,” he said.