Metro sign post

14 interesting facts about the Tyne and Wear Metro

The North-East has plenty to offer visitors, although that may not include extensive railway activity. However, it is home to one of the few rapid transit systems in the UK, the Tyne and Wear Metro.

It’s a part of everyday life for locals and an essential aspect of the North-East infrastructure; here are 12 interesting facts about the Tyne and Wear Metro.

Queen Elizabeth II Bridge carries Tyne and Wear Metro between Newcastle and Gateshead across the Tyne.
Queen Elizabeth II Bridge carries the Metro between Newcastle and Gateshead across the Tyne.

The Tyne and Wear Metro, or simply the ‘Metro’, is a light rail and rapid transit system based in North-East England, working around Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, South and North Tyneside and Sunderland.

Advert
Tyne and Wear Metro: Metrocar heading to Pelaw station.
Photo: The Railway Magazine. Metrocar heading to Pelaw station.

Tyne and Wear Metro is the UK’s biggest Metro system outside of London, spanning 48.2 miles. London Underground is a total 249 miles long, Docklands Light Railway is third at 24 miles and Glasgow Subway is last with only 6½ miles.

Photo: The Railway Magazine. Formerly Old Ford, the Metro station at Gateshead Stadium is on the southerly pair of the former British Railways four-track layout at Pelaw.
Photo: The Railway Magazine. Formerly Old Ford, the Metro station at Gateshead Stadium is on the southerly pair of the former British Railways four-track layout at Pelaw.

The Tyne and Wear Metro was created from a collection of existing railways, including part of the Tyneside Electrics route, underground tunnelling, freight-only lines, shared National Rail track and closed lines.

Photo: The Railway Magazine. The full extent of the Tyne and Wear Metro system. May 1981.
Photo: The Railway Magazine. The full extent of the Tyne and Wear Metro system. May 1981.

With just two lines – green and yellow – Tyne and Wear Metro has 60 stations, nine of which are underground. The green line runs from Newcastle Airport to South Hylton and the yellow line loops around the river Tyne, starting from St. James and reaching South Shields, Tynemouth and Whitley Bay.

Advert
Photo: The Railway Magazine. At the formal opening of the Tyne and Wear Metro on August 7, the first metrocar breaks a tape at Haymarket Station on the underground section.
Photo: The Railway Magazine. At the formal opening of the Tyne and Wear Metro on August 7, the first metrocar breaks a tape at Haymarket Station on the underground section.

The initial plan was to open a section of the Tyne and Wear Metro in 1974; however, the first part of the original network didn’t end up opening until August 1980 with the remainder opening in increments up to March 1984. It wasn’t until November 1981 that the Tyne and Wear Metro was officially opened by The Queen.

 Photo: The Railway Magazine. The Queen Elizabeth Bridge carries the Metro over the Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead.
Photo: The Railway Magazine. The Queen Elizabeth Bridge carries the Metro over the Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead.

Near 100,000 passengers use the Metro every day and there are around 40 million passenger journeys each year. The Metro has also been rated as one of the UK’s most efficient modes of transport, which is certainly reflective of its passenger numbers.

Greys Monument on Grey Street - regularly voted one of the best streets in England architecturally. Monument station resides below.
Greys Monument on Grey Street – regularly voted one of the best streets in England architecturally. Monument station resides below.

Monument is the busiest station on the network. It’s in the centre of Newcastle and is used by almost 10 million passengers per year. It’s one of the underground stations with an interchange to both operating lines on the Metro.

Advert
Tyne and Wear Metro
Photo: IStock. Interior of a metrocar and the designated disability seating area.

The Metro was the first transport system in Britain to have disability access. It was also one of the earliest to be entirely non-smoking, ahead of the London Underground which followed four years after Tyne and Wear Metro opened in 1984.

Photo: Nexus. Actor Robson Green in his early Tyne and Wear Metro video appearance warning children about safety on the Metro.

Pre Soldier, Soldier fame, Robson Green made an early appearance on an educational film for Metro. The video warns young people about safety on the Metro, including trespassing. It also reminds youngsters to pay their fares.

Photo: Nexus. Former gymnast Suzanna Dando stands on a metrocar donning the first-ever metro advertising in 1992.

Tyne and Wear Metro was the first rail company to utilise advertising on trains in 1992. The first advertiser was TV presenter Suzanne Dando, advertising the Metroland funfair in April of that year. Other companies such as East Coast and Marks and Spencer have followed suit since.

Advert
Photo: Creative Commons. Modern Map of the Tyne and Wear Metro.
Photo: Creative Commons. Modern Map of the Tyne and Wear Metro.

In 2000 the announcement was made that a new Metro line was to be built through the city up to South Hylton. The extra 10 miles ensured that the Metro would share track with freight trains. After the completion of this new line, The Queen returned to Tyne and Wear to officially open it.

Tyne and Wear Metro: Smashed glass

Antisocial behaviour costs the Metro hundreds of thousands of pounds each year, usually through vandalism and other destructive means. Passengers travelling without tickets also cost the Metro nearly £1 million per year.

Nexus logo.
Photo: Creative Commons. Nexus Logo.

Passenger Transport Executive, Nexus, owns and operates the Tyne and Wear Metro. It was run by DB Regio Tyne and Wear Limited, a branch of Arriva UK Trains, between 2010 and 2017, until Nexus took it back in house in April 2017.

Photo: Stadler. Design for new Tyne and Wear fleet
Photo: Stadler. Design for new Tyne and Wear fleet

A £362 million programme has been put into motion with Stadler of Switzerland who are said to be building a brand new fleet for the Metro. These are planned to include air-conditioning, heated floors, Wi-Fi, wider doors and aisles, charge ports and information screens. Deliveries of the new trains will commence in late 2021.

Railway Reads

From the history of steam through to 21st century rail transport news, we have titles that cater for all rail enthusiasts. Covering diesels, modelling, steam and modern railways, check out our range of magazines and fantastic subscription offers.

Get The Railway Hub Weekly Round-up

Enter your e-mail address below and you will receive weekly rail news straight into your inbox...





You can unsubscribe at any time.

About the Author

Shannon Butcher

Let off some steam...