It is perhaps one of the less famous of the River Tyne’s iconic bridges, but it has been vital to the region’s transport system for more than three decades.
Built in the mid-1970s, the QEII Metro bridge was the most vital engineering solution in the long awaited development of Metro.
It was an historic project, connecting Newcastle and Gateshead with a light railway system, which became the envy of other cities.
The QEII bridge, the sixth across the Tyne, was officially named by Her Majesty the Queen on November 6, 1981, as part of the official Royal opening of the Metro system.
The Royal opening was part of a three-week transport festival on Tyneside, designed to encourage people to try the Metro.
There was a huge fireworks display, a transport treasure trail, competitions – including one with a first prize of a Spanish holiday – a balloon race, a public transport cavalcade and exhibition, specially commissioned souvenirs and cheap fares.
Phil Richardson worked in the accounts department for the Tyne and Wear PTE when the bridge was opened.
He said: “I’d joined straight from school in 1980. I was allowed to watch the Queen opening the new Metro Bridge.
“We had to get there through a dilapidated old warehouse, but the Queen came on the Metro from Haymarket, where she’d performed the official opening ceremony for the whole system, so everything must have looked pristine to her eyes. She certainly didn’t get muddy!
“They built a structure like a small greenhouse beside the track and the dignitaries stood there to watch the Queen cut the ribbon.”
The construction of the QEII Metro Bridge, around 1981The construction of the QEII Metro Bridge, around 1981
The first Metro trains in passenger service actually crossed the bridge in August 1980 when the Metro system first started running.
When construction started in 1976 it was quickly decided that trains should cross the river on a 368-metre bridge, rather than in tunnels dug beneath the river.
The river bed was excavated and two concrete abutments were built to support the steel structure.
David Howard was Director General of the Tyne and Wear Passenger Executive, now Nexus, when the project was completed.
He said at the time: “Tunnelling would have been deep and expensive and would have made stations at Central and Gateshead deeper and more difficult for the public to use.
“We used 4,000 tonnes of steel to build the bridge. Extreme temperature changes can cause the bridge to expand or contract by about 150 millimetres over its total length, so it has an expansion joint to allow for this, believed to be the longest of its type in Europe.”
There will be no Metro between Heworth and Monument all day on Saturday, May 2 and Sunday 3, and Saturday, May 9 and Sunday 10. There will a bus replacement service 900 calling at all stations on the route.