The Tyne and Wear Metro was the first of the modern light rail systems to open in the UK. The original Tyne and Wear Metro lines—to Bank Foot, South Shields and the North Tyne Coast—opened in stages from 1980 to 1984, with the first section (Tynemouth–Haymarket via Whitley Bay) opening on August 11th, 1980. It has been extended twice, and new stations have been added to the original lines. At the heart of the network are former British Rail suburban railway lines, linked through Newcastle city centre by deep-level tube tunnels. The most recent addition to the system is the line to Sunderland, which makes use of Network Rail tracks, with Metro services sharing the track with main line passenger and freight trains—a situation unique in the UK.
The system is 47½ miles long, making it the longest light rail system in the country. The system is exclusively reserved-right-of-way, with no street running—routes are a mixture of new tunnels, old railway alignments and track-sharing with main line trains. [more]
The Metro's 60 stations are a mixture of structures inherited from British Rail, including some striking examples of Victorian (such as Tynemouth) and Art Deco (such as West Monkseaton) railway architecture, and stations constructed new for the Metro in the 1980s (such as Ilford Road) and 2002 (such as Park Lane). [more]
The Tyne and Wear Metro provides and with an intensive daytime frequency on two basic services: Newcastle (St. James)–North Shields–Whitley Bay–Newcastle–Pelaw–South Shields and Airport–Newcastle–Pelaw–Sunderland. At peak times there are trains every 3 minutes through the central Gosforth–Newcastle–Gateshead–Pelaw section. [more]
The system uses 90 trains, built for the system's opening in 1980 by Metro Cammell in Birmingham. The trains are articulated two-section units, and services are normally composed of two units coupled together. A pleasing feature for passengers is the half-width cab which allows for two seats at the front of the train with an unrestricted view through the windscreen. Trains have been refurbished in recent years and carry a variety of liveries. [more]
The Metro is owned and directly operated and maintained by Nexus (the trading name of the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive), which is the operations arm of the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Authority. Nexus also co-ordinates local bus and rail services and operates the Shields Ferry. In 2002 Nexus unveiled Project Orpheus, a radical plan to develop the Metro through extension and integration with a new street-running tramway—trams and Metro trains would share track and stations, with the eventual aim of converting all existing Metro lines to tram operation. Following the government's attitude shift away from trams and light rail, Project Orpheus developed into the current 'Metro Re-invigoration' scheme which no longer features tram operation.
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