THE government of the Australian state of Victoria has chosen a new operator for Melbourne’s 250km light rail network.

Yarra Journey Makers (YJM), a joint venture between Transdev and John Holland, will take over from the current operator, Keolis Downer, in December, after winning a nine-year $A 6.8bn ($US 4.5bn) contract. Keolis Downer has operated the system for 14 years.

Three parties bid for the new operations and maintenance contract, which the state government says will include strict benchmarks for service performance as well as specifying new technology to provide passengers with better real-time service information.

The unsuccessful bidders were Keolis Downer and another consortium led by Kinetic, the bus company that operates the SkyBus service between the city centre and Melbourne Tullamarine Airport.

“Our partnership will support the State’s vision of more integrated, sustainable transport for Victoria and the delivery of Melbourne’s Tram Plan,” says Transdev Australia and New Zealand CEO, Mr Brian Brennan.

John Holland, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Group (CCCG), is building Melbourne’s 9km Metro tunnel and is a partner in Metro Trains Melbourne.