Tyne and Wear Metro

Tyne and Wear Metro
4060, at Ilford Road, Newcastle upon Tyne.
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 109,600 (2015)
Ridership Over 40 million (2015)[1]
Opened 11 August 1980
Owner Public
Operator(s) Nexus
Arriva UK Trains
Depot(s) South Gosforth
Line length 74.5 km (46.3 mi)[2]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrification 1500 V DC
Operating speed 80 km/h (50 mph)

Tyne & Wear Metro

Int’l Airport
Callerton Parkway
Bank Foot
Kingston Park
Wansbeck Road
Regent Centre
Whitley Bay
West Monkseaton
Northumberland Park
North Shields ferry/water interchange
Meadow Well
Ashington, Blyth
& Tyne Line
Percy Main
East Coast Main Line

Four Lane Ends
Willington Gut
Hadrian Road
South Gosforth Depot

South Gosforth
Chillingham Road
Ilford Road
West Jesmond

East Coast Main Line
Manors National Rail

Manors Curve
Stock Line

St James
Central Station National Rail

Queen Elizabeth II Bridge
over River Tyne

Gateshead Stadium
Heworth National Rail
Pelaw sidings
River Don
River Don
Brockley Whins
East Boldon
by-pass loop
East Boldon
Tyne Dock
Stadium of Light
St Peter's
South Shields ferry/water interchange
River Wear

South Shields sidings
Sunderland National Rail
Sunderland sidings

Park Lane
South Hylton

Durham Coast Line omitted for clarity

The Tyne and Wear Metro, referred to locally as simply The Metro, is a rapid transit and light rail system in North East England,[3][4] serving Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and Sunderland in the Tyne and Wear region. It has been described as the first modern light rail system in the United Kingdom.[5]

It opened in 1980, and in 2007–2008 provided 40 million public journeys on its network of 74.5 kilometres (46.3 mi).[2] It is the second-largest of the three metro systems in the United Kingdom, after the London Underground; the other being the Glasgow Subway. It is operated by DB Regio Tyne & Wear Limited, a subsidiary of Arriva UK Trains under contract to Nexus.[6]


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 reserves the right to chaperone any filming or photography taking place on the network, and has often insisted upon doing so. This rule however does not apply to Sunderland station, because of its being owned by Network Rail and managed by Northern.

Smoking has been forbidden since opening; this was one of the first comprehensive smoking bans.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9] Examples include the following:

Metro sign near Newcastle University

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. A further revision made 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.


The 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).[11]

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 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, comprising 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.[12] In 2002 an 11-mile (18.5 km) extension was opened to Sunderland.[13]


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 make use of existing railway alignments to create a modern rail transit system,[2] 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).[2]

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 the successor of 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, because it passed through a more heavily populated area than the previous High Shields station. This is also the oldest section of the Metro's 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, which had been used to transport coal under the city between 1842 and 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;[4] 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.[14] 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 1980s. 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,[4] 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.[4] 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.[15]

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, of 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.

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 was to obtain a seven-year contract commencing on 1 April 2010, with up to an additional two years depending on performance.[16] In February 2009 four bids were shortlisted; DB Regio, MTR Corporation, Serco-NedRailways, and an in-house bid by Metro.[17] By October 2009 the shortlist had been reduced to bids from DB Regio and Nexus.[18] In December 2009, DB Regio was named as the preferred bidder.[19] 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.[20]

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.[21]

In 2005 the penalty fare for travelling without a valid ticket was increased from £10 to £20.[22]

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 was to be spent on the 'Metro: All change programme' over the next eleven years. A further £230 million would support running and maintenance costs over the next nine years.[20]

Current developments

'Metro: All Change programme' Phase 1

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

New ticket machines accepting notes and cards at all stations and barriers at 13 main stations were installed between 2011 and 2014. The modernisation of Haymarket station, funded through private development, was completed on 29 March 2010,[23] 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;[24] 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. In October 2016 it was announced that Nexus was to submit a bid to the Department for Transport in order to gain funding for new trains.[25][26]

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:

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, its rolling stock has remained the same. The fleet has been refurbished a number of times, with various liveries. Full refurbishment of the fleet was 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.[30] 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 and 1981 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.[31]

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[11]
11 December 2005 St James South Shields[11]
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.
Wallsend station is probably the only station in Britain with signs in Latin.

Metro was the first 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 in having such configurations 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.[11]

Distances on the system are measured from a datum point at South Gosforth. The system is metric, with distances in kilometres to the nearest metre. 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.[32]

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.[33] The closest adjacent stations are St Peter's and Sunderland; the furthest apart Pelaw and Fellgate.

61st station - Beacon Hill

A mock station, named Beacon Hill, was 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 recreated station building. The 'station' features a lifelike ticket hall with working ticket machines, a recreated platform area with tactile paving, authentic passenger seating, yellow litter bins and railings and an 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. "Nexus: Metro Passenger Numbers Pass 40 Million" (Web). Nexus. 27 January 2016. p. 1. Retrieved 2016-02-12.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Landmarks in urban transport". Nexus. 2015. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  3. "The longer term effects of the Tyne and Wear Metro". TRL. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Tyne & Wear Metro, United Kingdom". Railway-Technology.com. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  5. "How Metro was built". Nexus. Retrieved 2015-04-04.
  6. "Who is Nexus?". Nexus. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  7. "How Metro was built". Nexus. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  8. "Light Rail Statistics" (PDF). Department for Transport. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  9. "Commissions". Nexus. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  10. "Pontis by Michael Pinsky". Nexus. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  11. 1 2 3 4 "Newcastle-Upon-Tyne". UrbanRail.net. Retrieved 2013-07-24.
  12. "The History of Tramways and Evolution of Light Rail". Light Rail Transit Association. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
  13. "Sunderland". Railway People. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
  14. "Symphonies soothe train vandals". BBC News. 30 January 1998. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
  15. "Extension to Newcastle Airport". The Trams. Retrieved 2007-02-20.
  16. "Nexus names final two bidders for Metro operations contract". Nexus. 2 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  17. "Foreign bids for Metro contract". BBC News. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-03.
  18. "Final shortlist for Metro service". BBC News. 3 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
  19. "DB Regio preferred bidder for Tyne & Wear Metro operating contract". Railway Gazette International. 3 December 2009.
  20. 1 2 "£580 Million Funding Gives Metro a World-Class Future". Nexus. 3 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  21. "Metro Dig It". Retrieved 2010-03-31.
  22. "Increase in T&W Metro fares". Nexus. Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2007-02-20.
  23. "Haymarket Metro stations plans". Nexus. Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2007-02-20.
  24. "Metrocar takes to road as £20m refurbishment begins". Nexus. 22 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  25. puntond (2016-10-10). "Nexus". Nexus. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  26. Meechan, Simon (2016-10-12). "Your chance to help design the new fleet of Metro carriages". nechronicle. Retrieved 2016-10-16.
  27. "Plans to extend the Tyne and Wear Metro are considered". BBC News. 25 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-25.
  28. "Connecting Communities - expanding access to the rail network" (PDF). London: Association of Train Operating Companies. June 2009. p. 20. Archived from the original (pdf) on 29 July 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  29. "Support our petition to bring the Metro line to Washington". Sun FM. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
  30. "Company chosen to refurbish Tyne and Wear's 90 Metrocars". prnewswire. Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  31. "TheTrams.co.uk: Tyne and Wear Metro—2005 depot open day". www.thetrams.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-07-19.
  32. Maxey (Ed.), David (1987). Mile by Mile - Rail Mileages of Britain and Ireland. Peter Watts Publishing Limited, Woodchester, UK. ISBN 0-906025-44-3.
  33. Jacobs (Ed.), Gerald (2006). Railway Track Diagrams Book 2: Eastern. Trackmaps, Bradford upon Avon. ISBN 0-9549866-2-8.

Further reading

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