The Tyne and Wear metro – and how it revolutionized public transport in the region


A new book, The Tyne and Wear Metro, traces the story of a service that transformed public transport in the region when it was introduced in 1980

Last year, the Tyne and Wear metro celebrated its 40th anniversary.

The first service operated between Tynemouth and Haymarket at 5:31 am on August 11, 1980, instantly revolutionizing public transport in the area.

The metro had been in the making for a long time.

READ MORE: Take a trip back to Newcastle city center in 1970 in our gorgeous music video

“You’ll never get away with this,” said Tony Ridley, general manager of the new Tyneside Passenger Transport Executive, when the idea was first presented to him in 1971.

But doubts were quickly dispelled when local politicians managed to convince government ministers to accept the funding.

The metro would become a reality. Construction began in 1974, with plans in place for a gradual opening up of the network.

Huge tunnels have been dug under the streets of Newcastle and Gateshead. Stations and viaducts were built. A new bridge was built over the River Tyne and a fleet of 90 subway trains was purchased.

Many metro lines and some stations were part of old suburban rail lines and they were converted to be able to carry new, lighter rail rolling stock.

The first passenger services began operating on August 11, 1980, although the official opening by Queen Elizabeth II did not take place until November 6 of the following year.

When Metro first opened, the minimum price for a ticket was only 20 pence.

The system was extended to Gateshead in 1981, South Shields in 1984 and Newcastle Airport in 1991.

The Sunderland line was opened in April 2002 at a cost of £ 100million after a three-year construction project.

A new book by Colin Alexander, Tyne and Wear metro, exhaustively traces the history of the service.

He writes: “A tube trip can take us through open fields, Tyneside apartment terraces, towers, leafy suburbs and sandy beaches. It can take us to Roman forts, Saxon churches, medieval castles and ruined monasteries.

“Metro serves the UK’s 11th busiest airport, three universities, two of England’s largest football fields and an international athletics venue. It is unique. Continuing as it has done, the long tradition of pioneer and innovation of the Northeast, we are proud of our Metro, I think 40 years later, many travelers take it for granted.

“On the occasion of its 40th anniversary, it is time to celebrate its success and innovation, and to look forward to its future.

The well-researched and richly illustrated book explores the decline of the BR commuter lines that were replaced, the gradual opening up of the new system after 1980, and subsequent extensions.

It also examines those that will be considered in the future. The successful integration of the metro with bus and ferry services is envisaged, as well as the inclusiveness of the railway design, which allows people with disabilities unprecedented access to public transport.

It also exemplifies Metro’s unique combination of new tunnels, spectacular viaducts and tube stations, incorporating the magnificent Victorian infrastructure of the old North Eastern Railway and Blyth & Tyne Railway.

Colin Alexander lives in Whitley Bay and has a lifelong passion for local history and transportation. He has been passionate about the railroad for over 30 years and volunteered on preserved Deltic locomotives.

The Tyne and Wear Metro, by Colin Alexander, is published by Amberley and is on sale for £ 15.99.

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