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The Tyne and Wear Metro, also known as the Metro, is a metro system in North East England, serving Newcastle upon Tynemarker, Gatesheadmarker, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and Sunderlandmarker. It opened in 1980 and in 2007–2008 provided 40 million public journeys on its network of nearly . It is operated by Nexus and is one of only two underground metro-type systems in the UK outside London, the other being the Glasgow Subway.


The Metro is usually described as Britain's first modern light rail system. It can be considered a hybrid system, displaying elements of light rail, heavy underground metro, and longer-distance, higher speed suburban and interurban railway systems.

The Metro began operating in 1980, and was an evolutionary development as it was a pioneering system in the use of existing rights-of-way to create a modern rail transit system, linking them with purpose-built tunnels under central Newcastlemarker and Gatesheadmarker. 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 Lightmarker), both opened in 1839, making the Metro arguably one of the world's oldest local rail transport systems. In the case of 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.


With the opening of the Sunderlandmarker extension in 2002, the 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 Pelawmarker and Sunderland. The section from Sunderlandmarker to South Hyltonmarker was previously part of the Sunderland to Durhammarker 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 Airportmarker extension was largely built on the former Pontelandmarker branch line.

Four Lane Ends, one of many transport interchanges built around a Metro station.
When the Metro opened it was claimed to be part of the UK's first integrated public transport system. The 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 the Metro stations, using unified ticketing. Much was made of the 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 the Metro integration was pursued overzealously, and for example, bus passengers to Newcastle Upon Tynemarker would be forced to change to the 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.

News and issues

  • Nexus is to invest £1.7 million on audio visual display boards onboard its 90 strong fleet of carriages to provide station information. Test installations of the new system are present on several of the fleet, and the system should start being installed on the rest of the fleet by the end of 2009.

  • Work commenced on the final stage of improvement to Sunderland station from 9 September 2009 giving it a new look with new flooring, wall coverings, lighting.

  • Nexus is investing £1 million as part of the all change programme to replace six lifts on the system with new, quieter, more efficient ones. These are at Monument, Central, Gateshead, South Shields and Chichester, with works starting in July 2009 and lasting until 2010.

  • From May 2009 frequency to South Hylton increased to five trains an hour during the day and four in the evening.

  • In May 2009 passenger numbers rose to above 40 million for the first time in over 15 years.

  • In August 2008 the usage of mobility scooters on the Metro was banned, after a number of serious accidents involving their use on Metro trains.

  • In July 2008 the UK Government made a £300 million commitment to modernise the Metro network in the Metro: All Change programme. More than £350 million will be spent in the next decade modernising stations, refurbishing trains and overhauling infrastructure including communications, track and overhead power lines, structures and embankments. Nexus will seek a further £300 million after 2019 when it plans to replace all trains and signal systems, alongside further modernisation.

  • Metro is an 'open access' network with no fixed ticket controls. Checks are made by roving patrols of inspectors. 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 2010.

  • The Metro has been criticised by environmental campaigners for not permitting 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.

  • The Metro long had a problem with fare evasion, due to the lack of ticket inspectors on the trains. In recent years the number of inspectors has increased, and in 2005 the penalty fare for travelling without a valid ticket was increased from £10 to £20.. Nexus currently have plans to install ticket gates (similar to those on the London Underground) on certain stations. These gates will actually replace ticket gates that were originally installed on all Metro stations, but 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.

  • The "Stand clear of the doors please" announcement, which sounded before the doors started to close, was introduced in 1991. In 1996, a contest was held in which several mystery celebrities recorded the phrase, with a prize awarded for correct identification; these recordings were replaced by staff announcements after the contest ended. In order to increase the clarity of the announcement (especially for individuals not fluent in English) the phrase was replaced with "Doors closing" in 2004.

  • In May 2007, an elderly woman on a mobility scooter entered a Metro train at Jesmond Station on one side and crashed through the opposite doors, falling onto the track.[44797] Nexus stated that the doors had not been faulty and that this was the first occasion in 27 years that a set of doors had been forced open. There have since been two further incidents in similar circumstances and unaccompanied users of mobility scooters are no longer permitted on trains[44798].

Simonside Station, which opened in March 2008.
  • On 17 October 2007 services were suspended between Benton and Shiremoor due to track subsidence to the east of Northumberland Park. This was caused by the collapse of a disused mineshaft under the eastbound track on the western approach to the station. Services were suspended for a number of weeks for remedial work to make the area safe. A full repair was completed in March 2008 by filling the shafts with solid grouting.

  • The network's newest station, Simonsidemarker, 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.

Rolling stock

The design of the Metrocars was partly derived from that of the German Stadtbahnwagen B, although the Metrocars were built by Metro-Cammell in Birminghammarker (now part of Alstom). Prior to opening, the Metro's two prototypes, 4001 and 4002, still in service, underwent several years of testing at the Metro's test track on North Tyneside, opened in 1975. The track was also used to test cars for the Hong Kong MTR, also built by Metro-Cammell. To accommodate the larger Hong Kong cars a short above-ground test tunnel had to be demolished. The test track was built on the route of an old mineral wagonway, and it is now home to the Stephenson Railway Museummarker.

The Metro is electrified at 1500 V DC, as previously used on the Woodhead Line but now unique in Britainmarker. Metro has a maximum speed of , which it attains on rural stretches of line. The vehicles have a minimum curve radius of , although there are no curves this tight except for the non-passenger chord between Manorsmarker and West Jesmond.

During the early years of Metro, cars were operated in single and double sets. As single sets became overcrowded Nexus resumed using two cars as standard. Single cars became common during construction of the Sunderland extension when some units were taken for testing of the new track. During original construction metro was designed to use three sets and some stations platforms were made extra long but funding ran out so the system was set to two cars maximum. In the future nexus was quoted as saying platforms could be extended to accommodate three cars but this would be costly.


The Metro consists of two lines:

Originally there were also a Red line between Pelawmarker and Bentonmarker and a Blue line between St James and North Shieldsmarker. 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.


Distances on the system are measured from a datum point at South Gosforthmarker. The system is metric, with distances in km to the nearest m. Lines are designated In and "Out". The In line is from St. Jamesmarker to South Shieldsmarker via the inside of the loop (Yellow Line); the OUT line is the opposite. By extension the In line is from Airport to South Gosforth, and from Pelawmarker to Sunderlandmarker and South Hyltonmarker. Distance plates are mounted on all overhead line structures. Different distances are normally quoted for stations, depending on whether the direction of travel is In or Out. Distances increase from the datum in all directions.

The Sunderland extension, owned by Network Rail, uses the miles and chains system. The boundary between the two systems is close to Pelaw Metro Junction.

Notable features

  • The Tyne and Wear Metro was the first railway in the UK to operate using the metric system; all its speeds and distances are measured in metric units only.

  • Smoking has been forbidden since opening; this was one of the first comprehensive smoking bans.

  • A large-scale public artwork by Nayan Kulkarni, Nocturne, consisting of a moving kaleidoscope of light travelling along the Queen Elizabeth II Bridgemarker, which carries the Metro between Newcastle and Gateshead, was inaugurated in April 2007.

  • Before tunnelling 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.

  • Although the Metro opened in 1980, most of its route was previously part of one of the world's first electric suburban railways, which began service in 1904.

  • The Metro is 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.

  • The Metro pioneered the playing of classical music in some of its stations, which had the positive effect on reducing vandalism on the premises. In 2005 the London Underground began to follow the Metro's example.
Fare dodgers are exposed
  • The Metro was the only rapid-transit system in the world with a "pretzel" configuration, in which a line crosses over itself and trains pass through the same station twice at different platforms, as Yellow line trains do at Monument Station. It was joined by the Vancouver SkyTrain in Canada and the RandstadRail tram system in the Netherlands in 2006. Toronto had previously experimented with a pretzel configuration in 1966.

  • The Metro network employs a variant of the Karlsruhe model between Pelaw and Sunderland, where it shares tracks with heavy rail freight and passenger services. Freight trains used the Metro infrastructure from Bank Foot to Benton for the first decade of operation.

  • Metro is one of the few systems where the names of people convicted to fines for not paying their fare (fare dodgers or losers as they were referred to as on the original signs) are shown on posters entitled "Named and Shamed" in the stations.

  • The closest adjacent stations are St Peter's and Sunderland, the furthest apart Pelaw and Fellgate.

Opening dates

Year From To Via
11 August 1980 Tynemouthmarker Haymarketmarker Whitley Baymarker, South Gosforthmarker
10 May 1981 South Gosforthmarker Bank Foot Fawdonmarker
15 November 1981 Haymarketmarker Heworthmarker Monumentmarker
14 November 1982 St Jamesmarker Tynemouthmarker Monumentmarker, Wallsendmarker and North Shieldsmarker
24 March 1984 Heworthmarker South Shieldsmarker Pelawmarker, Jarrowmarker
15 September 1985 Kingston Parkmarker
16 September 1985 Pelawmarker
19 March 1986 Palmersvillemarker
17 November 1991 Bank Foot Newcastle Airportmarker
31 March 2002 Pelawmarker South Hyltonmarker Sunderlandmarker
11 December 2005 Newcastle Airportmarker South Hyltonmarker
11 December 2005 St Jamesmarker South Shieldsmarker
11 December 2005 Northumberland Parkmarker
17 March 2008 Simonsidemarker

Corporate identity and livery

The 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.

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 the mid-1990s a new colour scheme was introduced, solid red, green, or blue with a yellow wedge at each end and yellow triangles on the doors. This scheme was modified slightly in 2005, in part to comply with safety regulations - the doors are now solid yellow to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act. In addition, many Metrocars have carried full-body advertising. Prototype 4001 has been repainted in its initial yellow-and-beige livery.

Current problems

Part privatisation

The Metro is publicly owned, receiving funding from council tax payers and government but Nexus has announced a short list of four companies that will be responsible for operations and train maintenance and the modernisation of rolling stock. Nexus will continue to set fares, set frequency of services and metro operating hours. Opponents say this is privatisation by the back door: some services are already 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 will have a 7 year contract starting 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 Nexus. By October 2009 the shortlist only contained bids from DB Regio and Nexus.

The future

Current plans

Nexus recently secured £300 million in government funding to pursue a three-phase investment plan called Metro: All change.

Phase 1: 2008–2010: £55.2m

Phase 1 will see new ticket machines and barriers installed at major stations such as Monument (pictured).
In 2010 new ticket machines accepting notes and cards at all stations, and barriers at 13 main stations are being installed. These stations include large urban stations such as Monument, Haymarket, St James' and Central, and also suburban stations like Jesmond, South Gosforth, Manors, North Shields and Airport. Modernisation of Haymarket station, funded through private development, is nearing completion, and a new station at Simonside opened in March 2008. An upgrade of platforms at Sunderland and the modernisation of several other stations is included in this phase.

Phase 2: Starts 2010: £255.3m

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. Additional funding would be required to meet other goals, such as a new station in South Tyneside, new park and ride facilities, doubling of the line between Pelaw and Bede, and the rebuilding of South Shields, Heworth and North Shields stations.

Phase 3: Starts 2019, funding yet to be secured

Procurement of a new fleet of Metrocar trains, a new signalling system and a new generation ticket machines, overhaul and maintenance of structures, track and overhead lines, and further station improvements.

Suggested extensions and 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 that 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.

In the current economic climate it is unlikely the Metro will be extended. Nexus has struggled to gain the current funding for improvements to the existing system, so any extensions would be in the very long term if at all. Below is a list of previously mentioned extensions:

  • Tyne Dockmarker to East Boldonmarker along one of two dismantled railway alignments could easily be added, as only a short distance 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 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 program.
  • Washingtonmarker, either via the disused Leamside Line or a new route. Present planning may lead to the Leamside Line being opened as a conventional passenger rail line. The government favours guided-bus service to Washington.
  • Blythmarker & Ashingtonmarker, 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.
  • Killingworthmarker and Cramlingtonmarker have 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, or on 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.
  • Ryhopemarker, in southern Sunderland, has been mooted as an extension using existing railway lines. This route is under criticism due to the reduction in Northern Rail services that would likely have to follow.
  • Seahammarker, a proposal drawn up by Tyne and Wear Passenger Authority to use the existing Durham coast line south of Sunderland.


File:Jesmond Metro.JPG|Jesmond Station.File:Tyne and Wear Metro train 4001 at South Hylton 01.jpg|The prototype Metrocar, 4001, has been restored to its original livery (seen here at South Hylton in 2005).File:Tyne&Wear Metrotrain at Kingston Park station.jpg|A Metro train heading for South Shieldsmarker at Kingston Parkmarker.File:Tyne&Wear Metrotrain on level crossing.jpg|A Metro train at a level crossing.

See also


External links

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