The first part of what is now the Airport line opened in 1981 between South Gosforth and Bank Foot. The line used most of the former Ponteland branch, built in 1905 but closed to passengers in 1929. At the time of conversion to Metro services, the line was used by British Rail freight services to Rowntrees chocolate factory at Fawdon and I.C.I. Callington (beyond Bank Foot).
In a situation which remains unique on modern British light rail systems, these freight trains continued to run along Metro tracks until 1989, when the freight-only line beyond Bank Foot was closed. Part of this line was converted to Metro operation for the extension to Newcastle Airport, re-opening in 1991. Since the opening of the Sunderland extension in 2002, Metro trains have run along the same tracks as mainline passenger and freight services, but the line belongs to Network Rail and is part of the national mainline network (another situation unique on British light rail systems).
All of the stations on this line were constructed for the Metro, although Bank Foot, Fawdon and Regent Centre are on the sites of former railway stations.
The line is double track throughout. Services generally run every 12 minutes through the day, from Airport via Newcastle to Park Lane (Sunderland). Alternate trains continue to South Hylton, and there are peak-hour short workings from Regent Centre to Pelaw.
by simon schofield