DescriptionNewcastle is the centre of the metropolitan county of Tyne-and-Wear which includes other towns like Gateshead, Sunderland or South Shields. The city itself has only some 300,000 inhabitants but the area served by the Tyne-and-Wear Metro has about a million. Newcastle is a major port and an industrial centre in the north-east of England.
The TYNE-AND-WEAR METRO system (77.5 km) is not a 'full metro' because of some level crossings, four along the branch to the Airport, one at Howdon, and three on the Sunderland line.
Today's network was developed by converting 45 km of British Rail lines (some in use, some abandoned), some 13 km of newly built track were added to this, which includes a 6.1 km long underground section (single track tube tunnels) in central Newcastle and Gateshead. The river Tyne is crossed on a purpose-built bridge. There are also short tunnels between Tynemouth and North Shields and between Chillingham Rd and Byker. At Howdon, Fawdon and Kingston Park, platforms are staggered, with a level crossing in between. Between Pelaw and Bede the line has some single track sections, which are finally being doubled in 2006. The South Shields terminus is also single track.
From Pelaw an extension was built to Sunderland, with Metro trains sharing tracks (14 km, upgraded with 3 new stations) from Pelaw to Sunderland with local trains run by Northern Rail. From Sunderland to South Hylton new track (4.5 km) was laid along a long dismantled railway alignment. Transfer between Metro and regional services is provided at Sunderland, Heworth and Newcastle Central.
Apart from Vancouver (Broadway/Commercial Drive station), the Newcastle Metro is probably the only metro in the world where one train comes through the same station twice, which is the case at Monument. Yellow Line trains start underground at St. James next to the huge football stadium. They run through the upper level at Monument and leave the city tunnel just after Manors station. After running the loop along the coast they come back into the north-south tunnel just before Jesmond, and run through Monument station on the lower level. After Central Station they come to the surface to cross the river Tyne on a bridge. Immediately after that they disappear again to reach the last underground station at Gateshead. After this station they leave the tunnel and join the original railway alignment to Heworth and Pelaw. Until 11 Dec 2005, when the southern legs were swapped, Yellow Line trains used to continue to South Hylton, and Green Line trains from the Airport ran to South Shields (Green Line). Unfortunately there are no escalators at Monument between the two platform levels although there is a lift.
A trip from St. James to Monument via the coastal loop takes 54 minutes, trains continue for another 28 minutes to South Shields. Green Line trains take 67 minutes from the Airport to South Hylton.
Trains can be seen in 4 different liveries, one original in white (top) and yellow (bottom), and a newer colour-scheme which has a yellow front and either red, green or blue on the sides. Red seems to be the most common version. Some trains also carry full adverts. Nexus began applying a revised livery to the Metrocars in June 2004. The main change is the passenger doors being painted fully yellow to comply with UK DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) guidelines, which state that passenger doors should be a contrasting colour to the body to aid people with sight problems.
4-car trains are used, two cars are permanently coupled and allow free movement between them. Major stations are announced by the driver who sits in a cabin which only occupies half of the train's front, leaving the right half for passengers and offering a view usually only possible from automated metros. Curiously the Tyne-and-Wear Metro uses the sign EXIT instead of WAY OUT, which is used almost everywhere else in Britain.