2020 was a year of anniversaries in the North East and one organisation that celebrated their 40th anniversary was the Tyne and Wear Metro. 

    Getting around Newcastle and Gateshead is quick and easy thanks to the Metro which is made up of overground and underground stations across Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, and the coast. The yellow M is an iconic marker for the many metro stations in Tyne and Wear.

    To celebrate their 40th birthday, we dug out some top facts about the Metro as well as some weird and wonderful moments from the past four decades. Read on to get more familiar with one of the most popular methods of getting around Tyne and Wear... 

      • The Metro’s first day of service was 11 August 1980 when passengers were able to take the metro from Tynemouth at the coast to Haymarket in Newcastle. The transport system was completed in March 1984.
      • At the time of its inaugural journey in 1980, the metro was Britain’s first urban light rail transit system.
      • Testing of the metro took place in 1975 when two prototype passenger cars began trials at a purpose-built Metro test centre. The training facilities included 2.4km of track with a tunnel section, car shed and control room. The two metro passenger cars involved in the first stages of testing were numbered 4001 and 4002 and are still in service today!
      • At the time of development in the mid-1970s, the North East Metro was Britain’s largest urban transport project of the 20th Century.
      • Good enough for royalty… Perhaps one of the system’s most famous passengers was the Queen who took the metro from Monument to Gateshead in November 1981 and travelled across the newly constructed Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge which spans the River Tyne.
      • You never know who you might meet when you use the metro to get around Newcastle and the North East. In 2018, a Metro user spotted the Grim reaper patiently waiting for a train to Newcastle.
      • Visitors to the region can enjoy direct links from Newcastle Airport to the centre of Newcastle in 20 minutes making getting around in Newcastle and Gateshead a breeze. Download the Nexus Metro Map to help you plan your visit.
      • 60 metro stations cover a large geography – there is estimated to be 74.5 kilometres of track! The Metro therefore is a quick, direct and affordable way to travel between town centres across Tyne and Wear and Newcastle Airport with stations close to many shops, attractions, seaside, universities, and colleges.
      • To celebrate Metro’s birthday, kids can travel for free on the metro at weekends and on bank holidays throughout 2020 when they are accompanied by a fare-paying adult. There are also downloadable activity packs to make the metro journey fun and family-friendly! Find more information about how children travel for free and where to download Metro’s activity packs here.
      • The North East is a region with a strong locomotive heritage. There is a legacy of pioneering transport innovation dating back many years. Ground-breaking engineers such as George and Robert Stephenson were pivotal in shaping train travel not only in the region but influencing developments across the world. The most famous Stephenson invention was undoubtedly ‘Rocket’, one of the most important locomotives ever built. It was made in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1829 and the most advanced locomotive of its day which inspired the laying of railway lines and the construction of trains all over the world.
      • Monument Metro Station in the heart of Newcastle city centre is one of the busiest in the UK outside of London, with 10 million people using the stop every year.
      • Metro - The Musical anyone? Life really should be a musical and in 2011 as part of cultural events to mark 30 years of the Tyne and Wear Metro, a musical was created! Now we’ve seen everything!
      • More than 40 million passengers used the Metro in 2015, making it the busiest light rail system outside of London. £362m of investments into a new Metro trains fleet has recently been announced.
      • North East locals may also remember Jasper the ginger cat who famously rode the metro for a number of weeks at a time. The Metro really is the purrfect way to get around.
      • One more weird but very wonderful story for you – in April 2019, Digby the guide horse took part in a training day on the metro. The American miniature horse travelled on the metro to familiarise him with the sights and sounds of such a journey. Digby accompanies a partially-sighted lady instead of a guide dog. It’s worth travelling by metro in Newcastle and Gateshead just to see who you meet!
      • 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.

      You can find out more about the history of the Metro, how it was built and the story of how the Metro system was created at Find out how to plan your visit to Newcastle and Gateshead on our travel pages.

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