Monday 17 November 2014

Newcastle Metro Special

As regular readers will know I was in Newcastle last weekend and I didn't get on a single bus up there. Instead we did all our travelling by Tyne and Wear Metro, the light rail system up there.

First of all some history. Plans for the Tyne and Wear Metro werr first drawn up in 1973, the idea being to take over 26 miles of existing but run down rail network - not much of that around obviously - and turn it into a rapid transit network interlinking with buses using certain stations as transport hubs. Construction began in 1974 with the first lines opening in 1980. Since then extensions to Newcastle Airport and Sunderland have been opened, and the network now covers some 46.3 miles carryiing in excess of 40 million passenger journeys a year.

This is a geographically accurate map of the Tyne and Wear Metro network

The Tyne and Wear Metro network
The rolling stock has remained the same since the launch in 1980, although you wouldn't know it. Several refurbishments have taken place and right now the latest refurbishment is in progress, which should extend the life of the trains to 2025. The fleet consists of 90 two car units built by Metro-Cammell which are normally coupled together in pairs.

One of the units still to be refurbished heads for Newcastle Airport at Kingston Park Station
Most stations are unmanned, with no barriers. Yet they seem honest folk up there as the Metro has the thrid highest passenger income of the eight light rail systems in the UK - some £45.2m in 2013-14. Roving inspectors patrol the trains and some of the main stations have barriers. A lot of the level crossings also are completely devoid of barriers, although these seem to be at stations when trains are going dead slow.

A deserted Haymarket Station just after a train has left
This train to be precise!
I really like the trains - way ahead of their time interior wise and the acceleration is very impressive. They are also half cab so you can sit at the front next to the driver's cab and get a driver's view of things. I was very happy to ride on them as much as I could. Fares are extremely reasonable with a two zone all day pass being just £3.60 and a network day pass being £6.90 - which is valid on all bus services too. I would highly recommend anyone up that neck of the woods to try them out - you won't be disappointed.

One of the refurbished units at Kingston Park Station

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