Amey, EnterpriseMouchel and joint ventures between Atkins/Skanska and Balfour Beatty/Mott MacDonald are all believed to be in the hunt.
Bids for the deal, which will see spending of between £50m and £100m per annum over the first five years, are due back with the Highways agency by September 19 2011 and the contract is expected to start in March next year.
The incumbent A-One+ team features contractors Colas and Costain alongside consultant Halcrow.
The contract for Area 10 covers 500-km of motorway and trunk road carriageway and more than 2,500 structures throughout Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Merseyside and the southern parts of Lancashire.
Area 10 is one of three road maintenance deals held by the A-One+ group, which is also the incumbent contractor in Area seven and Area 12.