Metro was the first underground train network in the UK to install repeaters allowing customers to use their mobile phone in tunnels, an achievement that is being closely watched by the London Underground.
Metro does not allow the carriage of standard bicycles, though there are storage lockers for these at some stations. Only small folding bicycles are permitted on the Metro, and technically only Nexus approved models of folding bikes are permitted. Photography is allowed on Metro but written permission is required. Furthermore, Nexus reserve the right to, and have often insisted upon, chaperone any filming or photography taking place on the network. This rule however does not apply to Sunderland station because of its being owned by Network Rail and managed by Northern Rail.
Smoking has been forbidden since opening; this was one of the first comprehensive smoking bans.
Metro installed ticket barriers at 13 stations on the network during a modernisation programme in 2013–2014, while the remaining stations have no fixed ticket controls. Despite this, the Tyne and Wear Metro has the third highest level of passenger income per year (£45.2 million in 2013/2014) of the eight light rail systems in England. Checks are made by roving patrols of inspectors. Ticket machines that accept coins, notes and credit/debit cards were introduced during the modernisation programme.
Many stations throughout the system feature commissioned works by various artists. Examples include the following:
A large-scale public artwork by Nayan Kulkarni, Nocturne, consisting of a moving kaleidoscope of light travelling along the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, which carries the Metro between Newcastle and Gateshead, was inaugurated in April 2007.
Wallsend station is probably the only public facility in Britain in which the signage is in Latin. Artist Michael Pinsky was commissioned to create the bilingual signs and a map of Hadrian’s Wall in the style of the Metro map to commemorate the area’s Roman heritage and its location near the Segedunum Roman fort at the end of the wall. The project was part of Newcastle and Gateshead’s unsuccessful joint bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2008.
Metro sign near Newcastle University
Metro has a distinctive design and corporate identity, to distinguish itself from the decrepit rail system it replaced and to match the livery of the buses then in use. The Calvert typeface, used for signage and in printed materials, was designed specifically for the Metro by Margaret Calvert. The corporate identity was revised in 1998, de-emphasising the Calvert font, and adding the word Metro to its M logo. A further revision in 2008, and subsequently rolled-out, re-emphasises the Calvert font, most obviously in posters and in signage at the refurbished Haymarket station in the centre of Newcastle.
See also: List of Tyne and Wear Metro stations
Metro consists of two lines, the Green Line, which runs between Newcastle Airport and South Hylton (via Newcastle city centre, Gateshead and Sunderland) and the Yellow Line, which runs between St James and South Shields (via North Shields, Tynemouth and Whitley Bay), then looping back on itself and going south (via the city centre, Gateshead and Jarrow).
List of routes: Stations in bold indicate terminating stations
Green Line Yellow Line
Airport Airport interchange
Regent Centre Bus interchange
Haymarket Bus interchange
Central Station National Rail
Gateshead Bus interchange
Heworth Bus interchange National Rail
Stadium of Light
Sunderland National Rail
Park Lane Bus interchange
Extra peak time journeys between Regent Centre and Pelaw
Manors National Rail
Wallsend Bus interchange
North Shields Bus interchange – bus service to Shields Ferry ferry/water interchange
Four Lane Ends Bus interchange
Haymarket Bus interchange
Central Station National Rail
Gateshead Bus interchange
Heworth Bus interchange National Rail
Jarrow Bus interchange
South Shields Bus interchange – 5 minute walk for Shields Ferry ferry/water interchange
Extra peak time journeys between Monkseaton or Benton and Pelaw via South Gosforth
Originally, there was also a Red line between Heworth (later Pelaw) and Benton and a Blue line between St James and North Shields. Additional trains ran on these lines during peak hours to increase the frequency at the busier stations. Many of these additional services still operate as Yellow line services.
Geographically accurate map of the Metro system
There are nine fully underground stations on the network (six in Newcastle upon Tyne, one in Gateshead and two in Sunderland), and a further five sub-surface stations (Regent Centre, Four Lane Ends, Chichester, Heworth and Byker). This means there are 14 below ground stations or 23% of the whole network.
Planning and construction
Plans for the Metro were first drawn up in 1973 by the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Authority (Now known as ‘Nexus’). The plans involved converting the existing, but run-down 26 mile (42 km) long network of local rail services into an electrified rapid transit system, with eight miles (13 km) of new infrastructure linking them up. The system was intended to form part of an integrated transport network, with buses acting as feeders to purpose built-interchanges. Construction work began in 1974, and the original system was opened in stages from 1980 to 1984. Some extensions to the original system have since been built. A short extension to Newcastle Airport was constructed in 1991. In 2002 an 11-mile (18.5 km) extension was opened to Sunderland.
Metro leaving Heworth Station in 1985
When the system began operating in 1980, it was the second modern railway in the UK, after Merseyrail, to use of existing railway alignments to create a modern rail transit system, linking them with purpose-built tunnels under central Newcastle and Gateshead. (Earlier examples of using existing railway alignments for new urban rail services include the District, Central and Northern lines on the London underground and the RER in Paris; later examples include Manchester Metrolink and Croydon Tramlink.)
Much of the Metro’s route was part of one of the world’s first electric urban railway systems, which opened in 1904 on existing passenger lines (see Tyneside Electrics).
The Metro alignment includes most of two of the world’s oldest passenger railways: the Newcastle & North Shields Railway (Metro between Chillingham Road and North Shields) and the Brandling Junction Railway (between Gateshead and Monkwearmouth, near the Stadium of Light). Both opened in 1839, making the Metro one of the world’s oldest local rail transport systems. Apart from engineering works, such as when being converted to the Metro, the two lines have been in continual passenger use for over 170 years.
In the case of the Metro’s Chichester station, the route of an existing mineral railway was chosen instead of the previous passenger railway alignment, as it passed through a more heavily populated area than the previous High Shields station. This is also the oldest section of the Metro route, dating back to 1834.
Before tunnelling under Newcastle and Gateshead could begin, several disused mineshafts in Newcastle and Gateshead, some of them hundreds of years old, had to be filled in; the disused Victoria Tunnel, used to transport coal under the city in 1842–1860, had to be investigated. Not all of the tunnel remained, but some sections were strengthened to allow the metro tunnels to be dug above.
The Tyne and Wear Metro was the first railway in the UK to operate using the metric system; all its speeds and distances are stated in metric units only.
Four Lane Ends, one of many transport interchanges built around a Metro station
When the Metro opened it was claimed to be the hub of the UK’s first integrated public transport system. Metro was intended to cover trunk journeys, while buses were reoriented toward shorter local trips, integrated with the Metro schedule, to bring passengers to and from Metro stations, using unified ticketing. Much was made of Metro’s interchange stations such as Four Lane Ends and Regent Centre, which combined a large parking facility with a bus and Metro station; this distinction is no longer emphasised. Some passengers complained that Metro integration was pursued overzealously, and for example, bus passengers to Newcastle Upon Tyne would be forced to change to Metro in Gateshead for a short trip, rather than have the bus route continue for a short distance into Newcastle. Integration lasted until deregulation of bus routes in 1986. It is still possible to buy Transfare tickets that combine a Metro and bus journey.
Metro pioneered the playing of classical music in some of its stations to deter vandalism. In 1998 Frederick Delius’s Incidental Music to Hassan was chosen by Metro to be played over its public address system as a deterrent to vandals. The Director General of Nexus was quoted as saying: “The aim is not to soothe but to provide a background of music that people who we are aiming at don’t actually like and so they move away. It’s been pretty successful.” In 2005 the London Underground began to follow Metro’s example.
Callerton Parkway station, built for the Airport Extension
Simonside station, which opened in March 2008
Ticket barriers were withdrawn from service in the late ’80s. The gates were removed from most stations, but in some instances remained in use (permanently open) to assist with crowd control.
With the opening of the Sunderland extension in 2002, Metro became the first UK system to implement a form of the Karlsruhe model, using track shared with main-line trains on the section between Pelaw and Sunderland. The section from Sunderland to South Hylton was previously part of the Sunderland to Durham main line, closed in the wake of the Beeching Axe in the 1960s, and was the second Metro segment to be built on a disused line: the Newcastle International Airport extension was largely built on the former Ponteland branch line.
The network’s newest station, Simonside, opened on 17 March 2008. It cost £3.2 million, partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund, and serves a large residential and commercial area in South Shields. In May 2009, overall passenger numbers rose to above 40 million for the first time in over 15 years.
The Metro fleet was initially painted in a two-tone livery of cadmium yellow and white that matched the Metro station design and the livery of the Tyne and Wear bus fleet until 1986. In 1996, a new colour scheme was introduced, solid red, green, or blue with a yellow wedge at each end and yellow triangles on the doors.
The fleet of trains was refurbished between 2011 and 2015, with improved facilities for wheelchair users being introduced along with improved lighting and flooring. The refurbished trains are painted silver and black, with yellow on the front ends.
Metro is publicly owned, receiving funding from council tax payers and government. Nexus, which owns and manages Metro, contracted out operations and train maintenance as part of a deal with the UK Government to secure modernisation investment and operating subsidy for the system between 2010 and 2021. Nexus continues to set fares, set frequency of services and Metro operating hours. Opponents say this was privatisation by the back door, though some services had already been contracted out, such as cleaning of stations and ticket inspections. On 3 November 2008, Nexus invited potential bidders to declare an interest in a contract to run the Operations side of the business on its behalf. The successful bidder has a 7-year contract which started on 1 April 2010, with up to an additional two years depending on performance. In February 2009, four bids were shortlisted; DB Regio, MTR Corporation, Serco-NedRailways, and an in-house bid by Metro. By October 2009 the shortlist had been reduced to bids from DB Regio and Nexus. In December 2009, DB Regio was named as the preferred bidder. The contract for operating the system was signed on 2 February 2010, and the service was handed over to DB Regio on 1 April 2010.
One of DB Regio’s first initiatives was called Metro Dig It and involved the re-painting of stations and deep-cleaning of stations and trains.
In 2005, the penalty fare for travelling without a valid ticket was increased from £10 to £20.
In September 2007, Nexus announced that it was investing £14.3 million on new ticket machines, able to take credit/debit cards and notes alongside coins for the first time. At the same time it said three-quarter height barriers would be installed at 13 main stations from 2011.
On 3 February 2010, the Government confirmed it would award Nexus up to £580 million to modernise and operate the Tyne and Wear Metro. Up to £350 million will be spent on the ‘Metro: All change programme’ over the next eleven years. A further £230 million will support running and maintenance costs over the next nine years.
‘Metro: All Change programme’ Phase 1
Phase 1 will see new ticket machines and barriers installed at major stations such as Monument (pictured).
Between 2011 and 2014, new ticket machines accepting notes and cards at all stations and barriers at 13 main stations were installed. The modernisation of Haymarket station, funded through private development, was completed on 29 March 2010, and a new station at Simonside opened in March 2008. An upgrade of platforms at Sunderland and the modernisation of several other stations was included in this phase.
Lifts have been replaced at several Metro stations since 2009 as part of the programme. The programme also includes overhauling infrastructure including communications, track and overhead power lines, structures and embankments.
‘Metro: All Change programme’ Phase 2
The red version of the livery used from the late 1990s until 2015.
Refurbishment of 90 Metro trains and modernisation of 45 stations, a new communications system, overhaul and maintenance of structures such as bridges, tunnels, track and overhead power lines. North Shields station has also been rebuilt. This work started in 2010 and cost £255.3M. Refurbishment of the Metro trains commenced during the summer of 2010 with 4041 being the first one to undergo a nine-month rebuild; this included a new livery and a new interior.
‘Metro: All Change programme’ Phase 3
Procurement of a new fleet of Metrocar trains, a new signalling system, overhaul and maintenance of structures, track and overhead lines, and further station improvements. This work is scheduled to start in 2019. Funding for this phase has yet to be secured, and the scheme is being criticised due to the fact that the Metro fleet will be almost 40 years old when replacement begins, even though the fleet has an original design life of approximately 30 years.
Proposed extensions and suggested improvements
In 2002, Nexus unveiled an expansion plan to extend the system by adding new sections using street running, changing the Metro into a high-end tram system. Nexus argued that this would provide a cost-effective way to introduce rail service to parts of Tyne and Wear the current Metro services did not reach. The plan listed a number of routes, not all of which were to be built as rail lines; transitional bus services were envisioned, and these could be replaced by trams as demand increased. The original Project Orpheus has been abandoned, possibly because of the government’s present “value-for-money” policies for public transport. The use of trams in Tyne & Wear is now less likely, with additional public transport schemes being based around the use of buses.
Nexus has struggled to gain funding for improvements to the existing system, so any extensions are simply part of a long-term vision. Below is a list of previously mooted extensions:
Tyne Dock to East Boldon along a dismantled railway alignment through Whiteleas could easily be added as only a short distance (1.61 miles) lies between two Metro lines. This would provide a service from South Shields to Sunderland via the Whiteleas area of South Shields. Originally suggested by the South Tyneside Local Development Framework and reported by a local newspaper, the Shields Gazette, in January 2008. This would probably be the most likely of extensions as Nexus is also interested in building stabling facilities for Metro trains at South Shields station as part of the reinvigoration programme.
Washington, either via the disused Leamside line or a new route. Present planning may lead to the Leamside line being opened at least as far as Washington as a conventional rail line for passengers as well as freight, although this could be shared with Metro trains in the same way as the line from Pelaw Junction to Sunderland. In 2009 ATOC suggested reopening the Leamside line as far south as Washington. On 12 July 2010 local MP Sharon Hodgson started an online petition on the website of local radio station Sun FM to get Metro extended to Washington.
Blyth and Ashington, running on existing little-used freight lines. Northumberland Park station has been built to provide a link to a potential new rail service to these communities; if opened, it will not be a part of the Metro system.
Extension north to Killingworth and Cramlington has been planned since Metro was on the drawing board but would require widening of the busy East Coast Main Line to four tracks, which would be expensive, and a new alignment involving street running.
The West End of Newcastle would require new track involving tunnelling and bridging in rough terrain; this would be very costly and is perhaps least likely to receive funding, though would probably have the highest potential ridership.
Ryhope and Seaham, a proposal drawn up by Tyne and Wear Passenger Authority to use the existing Durham coast line south of Sunderland.
Main article: Tyne and Wear Metro rolling stock
The prototype Metrocar, 4001, has been restored to its original livery (seen here at South Hylton in 2005).
Since the inception of the Tyne and Wear Metro the rolling stock has remained the same. The fleet has been refurbished a number of times, with various liveries. Full refurbishment of the fleet is to take place from 2010 until 2015. Metrocars are to be refurbished by Wabtec Rail at its Doncaster facility with the main goal of the project to extend their service life until 2025. Metro’s passenger fleet is formed of a total of 90 two-car articulated units, which are usually coupled together in pairs. These were built between 1978-81 by Metro Cammell in Birmingham.
In addition to its passenger trains, the Tyne and Wear Metro also owns and operates three battery-electric locomotives, constructed by Hunslet in 1988 and numbered BL1, BL2 & BL3, as well as a Plasser & Theurer 08-275 NX ballast tamper and 15 wagons.
Year From To Via
11 August 1980 Tynemouth Haymarket Whitley Bay, South Gosforth
10 May 1981 South Gosforth Bank Foot Fawdon
15 November 1981 Haymarket Heworth Monument
14 November 1982 St James Tynemouth Monument, Wallsend and North Shields
24 March 1984 Heworth South Shields Pelaw, Jarrow
15 September 1985 Kingston Park
16 September 1985 Pelaw
19 March 1986 Palmersville
17 November 1991 Bank Foot Newcastle Airport
31 March 2002 Pelaw South Hylton Sunderland
11 December 2005 Newcastle Airport South Hylton
11 December 2005 St James South Shields
11 December 2005 Northumberland Park
17 March 2008 Simonside