Cardiff council is looking for a contractor to build a high-tech transport system in Cardiff Bay.
The project will effectively provide an automated taxi service between three stops in Cardiff Bay. Vehicles carrying up to four passengers will travel either on a track, rail or hang from an overhead structure, depending on the winning design. A track structure funded by the Welsh assembly has already been tested.

In the invitation to tender document, released last week, the council says it is looking for the winning contractor to apply for planning permission for the 3 km service within three months of appointment. Once planning permission is obtained, the contractor would have six months to work up detailed design and start on site. The system would have to be built by mid-2005.

A council source said: "The national assembly has been looking at an automated urban passenger transport system for a couple of years. We are trying to develop an integrated transport system, generated to a certain extent by development in Cardiff Bay. It's like an individual taxi service."

Between five and 10 contractors will be invited to tender for the project, which is estimated to cost up to £100m. However, an exact cost prediction is not possible because of the variety of proposals expected.

The cars would allow passengers to choose a station and the system would take them there without stopping at any others. Any proposal is expected to be an elevated system, designed to minimise visual intrusion. The vehicles are expected to have zero-emission levels.

We are trying to develop an integrated transport system. It’s like a taxi service

Council source

Once the first system is in place, a second-phase design linking Cardiff Bay with the city centre will be drawn up, and will probably require a separate bidding competition.

Work in Cardiff Bay includes the forthcoming construction of the Welsh assembly building.