Tyne and Wear Metro

Tyne and Wear Metro

Tyne and Wear Metro
Type Rapid transit/light rail
Status In Use
Locale Tyne and Wear
Stations 60
Services Green line
(Airport-South Hylton)
Yellow line
(St James-South Shields)
Daily ridership 112,000
Opened 11 August 1980 – present
Owner Public
Operator(s) Nexus
DB Regio Tyne and Wear
Depot(s) South Gosforth
Line length 77.7 km (48.3 mi)
Electrification 1500 V DC
Operating speed 80 km/h (50 mph)

The Tyne and Wear Metro, also known as the Metro, is a light rail system in North East England, serving Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and Sunderland. It opened in 1980 and in 2007–2008 provided 40 million public journeys on its network of nearly 78 kilometres (48 mi).[1] It is operated by DB Regio Tyne and Wear Ltd, the British rail subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, on behalf of Nexus.[2]



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.

Metro is an 'open access' network with no fixed ticket controls. Despite this, the Tyne and Wear Metro has the highest level of passenger income per year (£40 million in 2009/2010) than any other light rail system outside London.[3] Checks are made by roving patrols of inspectors. Ticket gates are due to be re-installed at several main stations during 2011, after an upgrade of the system's ticket machines. The original gates, which were found on every station when the system was opened, were removed in the late 80s due to safety concerns. They remain in place at several key stations to assist with crowd control.

Many stations throughout the system feature commissioned works by various artists.[4] 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.
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.

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.

Smoking has been forbidden since opening; this was one of the first comprehensive smoking bans.[6]


Metro consists of two lines, the Green Line, which runs between Newcastle Airport and South Hylton via Newcastle upon Tyne city centre, Gateshead and Sunderland and the Yellow Line, which runs between St James and South Shields via North Shields, Tynemouth, Whitley Bay, then looping back on itself and going south via the city centre, Gateshead and Jarrow.[1]

List of routes: Stations in bold indicate terminating stations

Green Line Yellow Line

Extra peak time journeys between Regent Centre and Pelaw

Extra peak time journeys between Longbenton 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


Planning and construction


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,[7] 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).[7]

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 also the first railway in the UK to operate using the metric system; all its speeds and distances are measured 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 part 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;[8] 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.[9] 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.


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.

Callerton Parkway station, built for the Airport Extension

With the opening of the Sunderland extension in 2002,[8] 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.[8] 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.[10]

Simonside station, which opened in March 2008

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.

Part privatisation

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.[11] In February 2009, four bids were shortlisted; DB Regio, MTR Corporation, Serco-NedRailways, and an in-house bid by Metro.[12] By October 2009 the shortlist had been reduced to bids from DB Regio and Nexus.[13] In December 2009, DB Regio was named as the preferred bidder.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16]

In 2005, the penalty fare for travelling without a valid ticket was increased from £10 to £20.[17]

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.[15]

Current developments

'Metro: All Change programme' Phase 1

Phase 1 will see new ticket machines and barriers installed at major stations such as Monument (pictured).

In 2011 new ticket machines accepting notes and cards at all stations, and barriers at 13 main stations are being installed. These stations are Monument, Haymarket, St James, Manors, Jesmond, West Jesmond, Gateshead, Heworth, Central, South Gosforth, North Shields, South Shields and Airport. The modernisation of Haymarket station, funded through private development, was completed on 29 March 2010.[18] 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. The cost of this scheme is £55.2m and is expected to be completed in 2010. Also included in this phase is the strengthening and overhaul of the footbridge at Jarrow Station.

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. The programme also includes overhauling infrastructure including communications, track and overhead power lines, structures and embankments.

Proposed developments

'Metro: All Change programme' Phase 2

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. This work is expected to start 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.[19]

'Metro: All Change programme' Phase 3

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. 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.

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, 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 highly unlikely, with additional public transport schemes being based around the use of buses.

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 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 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,[20] 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.[21] 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.[22]
  • Blyth & 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, or 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, 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 be likely to have to follow.
  • Seaham, a proposal drawn up by Tyne and Wear Passenger Authority to use the existing Durham coast line south of Sunderland.
  • Whorlton Grange,with following stations: West Jesmond, Spital Tongues, Cypress Avenue, Blakelaw Fenham Road and Etal Road Whorlton Grange

Fare evasion

The old style ticket machines
Fare dodgers are exposed

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.


In May 2007, an elderly woman on a mobility scooter entered a Metro train at Brockley Whins Station on one side and crashed through the opposite doors, falling onto the track into the path of an oncoming train, which was forced to brake suddenly.[23] 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 further incidents in similar circumstances, including an almost identical accident at Howdon station, and as of August 2008 the use of mobility scooters on the Metro has been banned.[24][25] There have been incidents of motor vehicles colliding with trains at level crossings.[26]

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.[27] 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, Metro also operates three battery-electric locomotives constructed by Hunslet which are used to pull engineering trains around the network.

Opening dates

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 [1]
11 December 2005 St James South Shields[1]
11 December 2005 Northumberland Park
17 March 2008 Simonside

Layout and distances

The blue plate on the electrification mast shows Howdon to be at kilometre point BP 19.732.

Metro was the second rapid-transit system in the world with a "pretzel" configuration after the City Circle line of the Cityrail system in Sydney, Australia, 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.[1]

Distances on the system are measured from a datum point at South Gosforth. The system is metric, with distances in km to the nearest m. Lines are designated In and Out. The In line is from St. James to South Shields 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 Pelaw to Sunderland and South Hylton. 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.[28]

The part of the Sunderland extension owned by Network Rail is dual-marked in metric units and the miles and chains system used by mainline trains. The boundary between the two systems is close to Pelaw Metro Junction.[29] The closest adjacent stations are St Peter's and Sunderland; the furthest apart Pelaw and Fellgate.

Wallsend station is probably the only station in Britain with signs in Latin.

61st station - Beacon Hill

A mock station, named Beacon Hill, has been installed in late 2010 at Beacon Hill School in Wallsend, North Tyneside. The station features a building painted like a Metro train, with working passenger doors, standing at a station with a re-created station building. The "station" features a life-like ticket hall with working ticket machines, a recreated platform area with tactile paving, authentic passenger seating, yellow litter bins and railings and a illuminated Metro "cube" outside.

The station has been installed at the school in association with Nexus to assist with teaching children how to travel by Metro, encouraging safe independent travel.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Length of the track". Urban Rail. http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/new/newcstle.htm. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  2. ^ "Who is Nexus?". Nexus. http://www.nexus.org.uk/who-is-nexus. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  3. ^ "Light Rail Statistics". Department for Transport. http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/public/lightrail/latest/lightrail2010.pdf. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  4. ^ "Commissions". Nexus. http://www.nexus.org.uk/node/771. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  5. ^ "Pontis by Michael Pinsky". Nexus. http://www.nexus.org.uk/primary-footer-section-2/art-transport/commissions/pontis-temporary-commission. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  6. ^ "How Metro was built". Nexus. http://www.nexus.org.uk/history/how-metro-was-built. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  7. ^ a b "Transport history". Nexus. http://www.nexus.org.uk/history/transport-history. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  8. ^ a b c "May 2002 Sunderland Extension". Railway Technology. http://www.railway-technology.com/projects/tyne/. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  9. ^ "Symphonies soothe train vandals". BBC News. 1998-01-30. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/51939.stm. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  10. ^ "Extension to Newcastle Airport". The Trams. http://www.thetrams.co.uk/tyneandwear.php. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  11. ^ "Nexus names final two bidders for Metro operations contract". Nexus. 2009-10-02. http://www.nexus.org.uk/news/2010/nexus-names-final-two-bidders-metro-operations-contract. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  12. ^ "Foreign bids for Metro contract". BBC News. 2009-02-02. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7864519.stm. Retrieved 2009-02-03. 
  13. ^ "Final shortlist for Metro service". BBC News. 2009-10-03. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tyne/8288315.stm. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  14. ^ "DB Regio preferred bidder for Tyne & Wear Metro operating contract". Railway Gazette International. 2009-12-03. http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/single-view/view/10/db-regio-preferred-bidder-for-tyne-metro-operating-contract.html. 
  15. ^ a b "£580 Million Funding Gives Metro a World-Class Future". Nexus. 2010-02-03. http://www.nexus.org.uk/news/2010/%C2%A3580-million-funding-gives-metro-world-class-future. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  16. ^ "Metro Dig It". http://www.metro-dig-it.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  17. ^ "Increase in T&W Metro fares". Nexus. Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. http://web.archive.org/web/20060927084722/http://www.nexus.org.uk/wps/wcm/connect/Nexus/Nexus/Press+office/Media+briefing+notes/Nexus+-+Tyne+and+Wear+Metro. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  18. ^ "Haymarket Metro stations plans". Nexus. Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. http://web.archive.org/web/20060927084844/http://www.nexus.org.uk/wps/wcm/connect/Nexus/Nexus/Major+projects/Proposed/About+us+-+Proposed+Project+-+Haymarket. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  19. ^ "Metrocar takes to road as £20m refurbishment begins". Nexus. 2010-06-22. http://www.nexus.org.uk/news/2010/metrocar-takes-road-%C2%A320m-refurbishment-begins. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  20. ^ "Plans to extend the Tyne and Wear Metro are considered". BBC News. 2010-03-25. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tyne/8586924.stm. Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  21. ^ "Connecting Communities". June 2009. http://www.atoc.org/clientfiles/File/publicationsdocuments/ConnectingCommunitiesReport_S10.pdf. Retrieved 2011-08-17. 
  22. ^ "Support our petition to bring the Metro line to Washington". Sun FM. http://www.sun-fm.com/metrolinepetition.php. Retrieved 2011-08-17. 
  23. ^ "Buggy woman crashes through train". BBC News. 2008-05-24. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tyne/6686703.stm. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  24. ^ "'Progress' over Metro scooter ban". BBC News. 2008-05-18. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7407147.stm. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  25. ^ "Accessibility". Nexus. http://www.nexus.org.uk/metro/accessibility. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  26. ^ "Metro train hits car on Howdon level crossing". Evening Chronicle. 2010-06-28. http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/north-east-news/evening-chronicle-news/2010/06/28/metro-train-hits-car-on-howdon-level-crossing-72703-26741018. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  27. ^ "Company chosen to refurbish Tyne and Wear’s 90 Metrocars". prnewswire. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/wabtec-unit-awarded-contract-to-overhaul-transit-cars-for-tyne--wear-metro-in-england-96045589.html. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  28. ^ Maxey (Ed.), David (1987). Mile by Mile - Rail Mileages of Britain and Ireland. Peter Watts Publishing Limited, Woodchester, UK. ISBN 0-906025-44-3. 
  29. ^ Jacobs (Ed.), Gerald (2006). Railway Track Diagrams Book 2: Eastern. Trackmaps, Bradford upon Avon. ISBN 0-9549866-2-8. 

External links

Coordinates: 54°58′16″N 1°37′19″E / 54.971012°N 1.622035°E / 54.971012; 1.622035

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