The US-based team of Parsons Brinckerhoff and Aecom has emerged as the frontrunner for the contract to conduct a feasibility study and initial design work for Abu Dhabi’s proposed tram system.

According to sources involved in the bidding process, the Department of Transport has completed its evaluation of the bids and the Parsons Brinckerhoff/Aecom group is now the highest ranked bidder.

If the department goes ahead and awards the group the 18-month contract, Parsons Brinckerhoff and Aecom will help it assess the financial viability of the scheme, and prepare designs for the stations and other technical specifications (MEED 24:1:09).

The proposed scheme involves laying 340 kilometres of tracks. The network will open in 2014 and connect with the city’s proposed metro system, which is due to be completed in 2015.

The metro and the tram are two of the most important transport projects planned for Abu Dhabi, and form part of the wider surface transport masterplan, which was launched in April 2009.

In early January, the Department of Transport selected US-based Fluor Corporation as project manager, to oversee the implementation of the masterplan.

In total, the emirate plans to spend $68bn on upgrading transport infrastructure by 2017.

The most urgent schemes are those on Abu Dhabi Island and the surrounding areas, where the population is expected to grow to 3.2 million from its current level of 900,000.