Early days of the Tyne & Wear Metro

AY1975

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Apologies if there's already a thread on this (if there is I can't find it), and not sure if this belongs in Light Rail & Metros or Railway History & Nostalgia, but does anyone have any memories of the early days of the Tyne & Wear Metro (or of its construction, opening to passengers or official opening)?

I believe that it opened in stages starting in August 1980, and that it was officially opened by the Queen in November 1981. In some ways it seems a bit odd that the official opening didn't take place until over a year after the first phase of the network opened, but maybe Tyne & Wear (now Nexus) PTE wanted to wait until a large part of the network was open.

I think I first went to Newcastle and first rode on the Metro in 1983 when I was 8. In those days it was a 5p flat fare for children!

Also in the early days, until bus deregulation in 1986, the buses and Metro were integrated and there were interavailable tickets covering both modes.

In the 1980s and '90s Metro tickets were issued as Edmondson card sized yellow tickets with a thin brown stripe on the rear, very similar to the Paris Metro tickets of that time.

Until about the late 1980s most stations had ticket-operated turnstiles at least in Newcastle city centre. These were then removed, or in some cases retained but freewheeled so that you no longer needed to present your ticket to pass through them. From then on the Metro relied entirely on spot checks on trains and at stations by roving revenue protection inspectors. In recent years ticket gates have been reintroduced at some central area stations, however (and the old style tickets replaced with standard credit card sized tickets).

At least in the 1980s and '90s the warning signal before the doors closed consisted of a high-pitched hum. This was replaced by a standard bleeping sound similar to that on the London Underground and most national rail trains (known as the "hustle alarm" in modern day railway parlance) when the Metro cars were refurbished.

I think my dad went to the official opening of the Metro or knew someone who went, as he was given a commemorative poster (which I had on my bedroom wall for many years as a child) and a blank audio tape with a recording of the Metro launch song, the lyrics of which I can still remember:

Buses and Metro make the going easy
Wherever you're going in Tyne & Wear
From here to there, from there to here
Buses and Metro are the best
From north to south, from east to west
Rapid transit integrated transport system
Which means you hop on a bus til you come to the Metro
Get on the Metro and you're there
Efficient and frequent from morning til night
Buses and metro will serve you all right

I've searched online for Tyne & Wear metro launch to see if I could find that song but I couldn't find it anywhere. I did find this, though:


Note that car 4001 still has an old style high pitched hum rather than a bleeper, albeit with a "doors closing" voice added. I presume 4001 has been deliberately kept in as near as possible to as-built condition (apart from any modifications needed to comply with modern day disabled access regulations) because of its pioneer celebrity status.

I also came across this:

And this:

And this advert from the early days:
 
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edwin_m

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We only moved into the area after the section from Haymarket to the coast opened but I was on the first train over the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and later sections. My brother insisted on dragging an unwilling dog out of bed so he could claim ownership of the first dog to use the route on an official service. We had some very low-numbered tickets from the machines.
 

Scott M

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Not really sure if this is the sort of stuff you are looking for, but best I can offer..:

•Sunday service used to be one carriage instead of two
•The lines used to have their own colours on the front of trains (eg “Pelaw” would be displayed as yellow on the front of the train); miscellaneous destinations used to be displayed in white letters with a black background, such as South Gosforth, Haymarket etc
•Drivers were initially taught to brake at full service coming into stations, but because this lead to too many emergency brake applications and station overshoots, the RAIB (or whatever its equivalent was back then) threatened to shut the system down, so drivers are now taught a more soft braking approach
 

edwin_m

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Not really sure if this is the sort of stuff you are looking for, but best I can offer..:

•Sunday service used to be one carriage instead of two
•The lines used to have their own colours on the front of trains (eg “Pelaw” would be displayed as yellow on the front of the train); miscellaneous destinations used to be displayed in white letters with a black background, such as South Gosforth, Haymarket etc
•Drivers were initially taught to brake at full service coming into stations, but because this lead to too many emergency brake applications and station overshoots, the RAIB (or whatever its equivalent was back then) threatened to shut the system down, so drivers are now taught a more soft braking approach
There was also a "red line" Heworth to Benton, but it only ran in one direction in the sense that trains starting from Benton just displayed Heworth in yellow. Similar for the blue line from St James to North Shields. Here's the map from that time: tyne and wear metro map - Bing images
 

Kris28

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Metros used to run Airport to South Shields as single carriages from 7pm in the evenings. They used to be uncoupled at Airport so the odd time you would see 4carriage trains returning to the depot Via Regent Centre entrance
 

Wallsendmag

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My first memories of the Metro are of the construction of Monument station and the hoardings in the centre of Newcastle while shopping. I also remeber the 5p fares coming in I think I was 14 when that happened and the child age was extended to 16. We used to see how far we could get on one Transfare.
 

Volvictof

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I believe the queen actually opened the Queen Elizabeth II metro bridge over the Tyne and this was a year or so after the actual metro opened, hence why she waited until then. Not sure if this was an official royal opening for the whole system or just the bridge.
Interms of the door tones;
Ive seen video from the 80s of a high pitched hum, and I recall from being a child in the 90s there was a different tone followed by “stand clear of the doors please” which then was replaced with “doors closing” and now the standard regulation door tones.

4001 and the other 3 cars basically didn't go through the 3/4 life refurbishments at wabtech due to financial constraints so now only these 4 cars can be coupled together, (coupling with other cars will produce faults due to the differences in wiring) this is the main reason that they were/are different and non DDA compliant. Special dispensation was sought to keep them in passenger service but they are generally only used as peak short services that don’t venture onto network rail infrastructure. They have since been updated to be compliant with DDA although I’m not sure to what extent.
 

Taunton

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As I don't seem to have used the Metro for over 35 years now, I guess things come into 'early days'. First view was before it opened, probably summer 1978. I was aware of the test track at (Middle Engine Lane? Backworth?) so visiting Blyth one evening I drove over. Expecting just a distant view, it was actually operating, and so saw the prototype cars running over the crossing there. A section of tunnel lining which had been erected had been half-removed because the line had, i believe, also been used for testing Hong Kong Metro cars, also built by Met-Cam and 1,500v overhead. I seem to recall a number of the early Metro management had gone on to manage the Hong Kong project.

Visited again must have been about summer 1984, driving back from Edinburgh to London. Stopped at North Shields, went over on the ferry, and then Metro'd all the way back through the city. The Harton coal lines were still operating, and the wagons loose shunting on the south bank were an interest from across the river, until I realised it was now 7.30pm and I needed to drive back. I think that although I've been to Newcastle a few times I've never been on the Metro since.
 

Jagdpanther

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Some stuff. Early publicity brochures, first timetables etc plus brochures on proposed extensions.
 

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simple simon

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Not really sure if this is the sort of stuff you are looking for, but best I can offer..:

•The lines used to have their own colours on the front of trains (eg “Pelaw” would be displayed as yellow on the front of the train); miscellaneous destinations used to be displayed in white letters with a black background, such as South Gosforth, Haymarket etc

This Flickr photo shows just that! Filmed in 1981. As you said, other destinations had other coloured backgrounds as per the line colour.

 

omnicity4659

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•Drivers were initially taught to brake at full service coming into stations, but because this lead to too many emergency brake applications and station overshoots, the RAIB (or whatever its equivalent was back then) threatened to shut the system down, so drivers are now taught a more soft braking approach
When was this phased out? I certainly remember very harsh braking into stations being a regular thing until around 2013/4.
 

hacman

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When was this phased out? I certainly remember very harsh braking into stations being a regular thing until around 2013/4.

Long before then - but even the more "mild" brake steps on the Metro fleet are quite aggressive compared to mainline stock.

The new rolling stock is specified to have even stronger braking and acceleration too!
 

alf

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My first train driving took place on the metro test track in 1974 or 1975.
I was a Tyne Tees ITV reporter & persuaded Dr Tony Ridley the Metro boss to let me film a brand new train on the test track mentioned in post 8.
There was a long straight section with a platform.

Once aboard I said it would make good TV if I was allowed to drive. Dr Ridley agreed & told me to push the handle to go forward & to pull it back to stop. ( it may have been other way round).

That was my training & my passengers were the cameraman plus sound man, Dr Ridley, a T&W engineer & a Tyne & Wear PR man.

I got up to 55 (can’t remember if it was kph or mph) when Ridley said “ you had better start breaking if you want to stop at the platform.”
I took his advice & halted smoothly at the stop board.
I was very pleased with myself.
And so were the viewers (from our phone log) & newsroom colleagues that evening.

The test track stretched away into the distance so there was no danger if I overran.
That two & a half minute item must be in the the Tyne tees archive.
 

MoleStation

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My first train driving took place on the metro test track in 1974 or 1975.
I was a Tyne Tees ITV reporter & persuaded Dr Tony Ridley the Metro boss to let me film a brand new train on the test track mentioned in post 8.
There was a long straight section with a platform.

Once aboard I said it would make good TV if I was allowed to drive. Dr Ridley agreed & told me to push the handle to go forward & to pull it back to stop. ( it may have been other way round).

That was my training & my passengers were the cameraman plus sound man, Dr Ridley, a T&W engineer & a Tyne & Wear PR man.

I got up to 55 (can’t remember if it was kph or mph) when Ridley said “ you had better start breaking if you want to stop at the platform.”
I took his advice & halted smoothly at the stop board.
I was very pleased with myself.
And so were the viewers (from our phone log) & newsroom colleagues that evening.

The test track stretched away into the distance so there was no danger if I overran.
That two & a half minute item must be in the the Tyne tees archive.
That is very very interesting! Wonder if any Tyne Tees archives from back then still exist, and where? Not as if we could nip across to City Road (via the Egypt!)
 

swt_passenger

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I happened upon a construction video for the Byker Viaduct this morning. What I was surprised to see was the way the deck sections were cast in the factory against the front face of what would become the previously installed adjacent unit. That way the two mating surfaces would be an exact fit. It’s all glued together, although there are also post-stressing cables.

 

Swanny200

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That is very very interesting! Wonder if any Tyne Tees archives from back then still exist, and where? Not as if we could nip across to City Road (via the Egypt!)
Slightly off topic but with a lot of the companies that merged in the late 80's early 90's to become parts of the Granada and Carlton groups, a lot of the archives were sold. the ITV Archives in London have some of them, but I know that a lot of TV archives were based in a warehouse that went up in flames many years ago. one of the biggest losers was TVS that covered Kent, Sussex and part of Hampshire, a lot of their old stuff that didn't get lost in the fire including a lot of stuff like old Art Attack, C.A.T.S Eyes, Fraggle Rock that was all fimed at The Maidstone Studios, was shipped to the US and through various buyouts ended up in the hands of FOX who are obviously now part of Disney, main issue with it is that if it still does exist, when it was transported, the paperwork pertaining to rights to those shows didn't so questions of loyalty payments etc... have been avoided by nobody showing them. Art Attack only continued after the sale because Neil Buchanan bought the rights and used his own TV company to still film and broadcast it until he sold it all to Disney, however a lot of the earlier stuff is gone, believed wiped.
 

MoleStation

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Slightly off topic but with a lot of the companies that merged in the late 80's early 90's to become parts of the Granada and Carlton groups, a lot of the archives were sold. the ITV Archives in London have some of them, but I know that a lot of TV archives were based in a warehouse that went up in flames many years ago. one of the biggest losers was TVS that covered Kent, Sussex and part of Hampshire, a lot of their old stuff that didn't get lost in the fire including a lot of stuff like old Art Attack, C.A.T.S Eyes, Fraggle Rock that was all fimed at The Maidstone Studios, was shipped to the US and through various buyouts ended up in the hands of FOX who are obviously now part of Disney, main issue with it is that if it still does exist, when it was transported, the paperwork pertaining to rights to those shows didn't so questions of loyalty payments etc... have been avoided by nobody showing them. Art Attack only continued after the sale because Neil Buchanan bought the rights and used his own TV company to still film and broadcast it until he sold it all to Disney, however a lot of the earlier stuff is gone, believed wiped.
Off topic plus no offence too but that just really reminded me of a very recent Alan Partridge!
It is a total shame though about local losing news reports reports forever. There's a selection of 80s stuff on vhs on the youtubes if you really really search but I guess a lot is lost. Or even mislaid and forgotten
 

Swanny200

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Only reason I know about it is that I was searching for an old TVS show from years back that I was in an episode of, there used to be an online tv archive with some old ATV stuff from the 60's too but unfortunately stuff from the 80's and early 90's from the majority of the ITV regions may never see the light again unless they were made by LWT which is why so many shows like The Bill and Dempsey and Makepeace are still around.
 

BahrainLad

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AFAIK the ticket gates were removed / opened in the underground stations (e.g. Monument, Haymarket, St James etc) after the Kings Cross fire, for emergency escape reasons.
 

ainsworth74

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Also in the early days, until bus deregulation in 1986, the buses and Metro were integrated and there were interavailable tickets covering both modes.
My understanding was that the idea was to reduce the number of buses in Newcastle city centre to have people interchange and use the Metro for the 'final mile'. I think Gateshead and Heworth are both places where this was planned hence have very large bus stations above the Metro platforms.

Of course as you say bus deregulation put paid to that as all the companies wanted the fare revenue of running into the city centre.
 

rg177

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AFAIK the ticket gates were removed / opened in the underground stations (e.g. Monument, Haymarket, St James etc) after the Kings Cross fire, for emergency escape reasons.
Wasn't it more to do with the fact that a child ended up getting killed after somehow becoming stuck in one?

Of course the old practice of gatelines at every station, unmanned, much like Cercanias systems in Spain, wouldn't stand up today. All the new gatelines are minimum double manned and someone should theoretically be no more than five seconds from the emergency release.
 

edwin_m

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My understanding was that the idea was to reduce the number of buses in Newcastle city centre to have people interchange and use the Metro for the 'final mile'. I think Gateshead and Heworth are both places where this was planned hence have very large bus stations above the Metro platforms.

Of course as you say bus deregulation put paid to that as all the companies wanted the fare revenue of running into the city centre.
Regent Centre and Four Lane Ends were, and as far as I know still are, bus interchanges, and were much more substantially built than the other stations similar to the shallow underground one at Jesmond (which wasn't a bus interchange). Being rather further out from the centre they were rather more successful than Gateshead, where expecting people to descend several levels underground for a journey of less than a mile was plain silly. The historic map I linked upthread also shows bus interchanges at Jarrow, Chichester and North Shields, but I don't recall whether they were of the same sort of construction.
 

simple simon

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My understanding was that the idea was to reduce the number of buses in Newcastle city centre to have people interchange and use the Metro for the 'final mile'. I think Gateshead and Heworth are both places where this was planned hence have very large bus stations above the Metro platforms.

Of course as you say bus deregulation put paid to that as all the companies wanted the fare revenue of running into the city centre.

The theory was that the 'last mile' in to Newcastle city centre was usually the most traffic-congested and hence slowest part of the journey. So even with the extra time needed for the interchange (walking between transports, waiting for it to arrive, etc) it would still be faster that staying on the bus. Especially at busy times - rush hours, Saturday afternoon shopping close to Christmas, etc.

But some passengers did not like the enforced interchanging, especially senior citizens who are less mobile than younger people and hence very much prefer a 'one seat' journey - even if it means a longer overall journey duration.
 

APT618S

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Wasn't it more to do with the fact that a child ended up getting killed after somehow becoming stuck in one?

Of course the old practice of gatelines at every station, unmanned, much like Cercanias systems in Spain, wouldn't stand up today. All the new gatelines are minimum double manned and someone should theoretically be no more than five seconds from the emergency release.
That's how I remember it as the original "barriers" were turnstyles on a ratchet mechanism so would only rotate one way. So somebody trapped could not be released easily.
 

Jagdpanther

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My understanding was that the idea was to reduce the number of buses in Newcastle city centre to have people interchange and use the Metro for the 'final mile'. I think Gateshead and Heworth are both places where this was planned hence have very large bus stations above the Metro platforms.

Of course as you say bus deregulation put paid to that as all the companies wanted the fare revenue of running into the city centre.
I know they tried to change the bus services from Sunderland to all terminate at Heworth and for passengers to continue into Newcasrle. But there was such an outcry it didn't last long.
 

thenorthern

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For a time there was the red line that ran from Benton to Heworth I am not sure when that ended, there was also the Blue Line that ran from St James' to North Shields which I know was in existence until 1993. The line which was covered by the red and blue lines was also covered by the Yellow Line which at the time ran from St James' to Heworth so the Blue and Red lines were there to increase capacity.
 

trebor79

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Red line services were running at least as late as 1997, as I remember using them. I don't think they were still advertised as red line, just yellow line starting/stopping short (maybe only in peak hours?)
 

HS2isgood

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Wasn't it more to do with the fact that a child ended up getting killed after somehow becoming stuck in one?

Of course the old practice of gatelines at every station, unmanned, much like Cercanias systems in Spain, wouldn't stand up today. All the new gatelines are minimum double manned and someone should theoretically be no more than five seconds from the emergency release.
Here in Spain most subway and commuter rail stations are unmanned, with gatelines. All Madrid metro stations have gatelines, in Cercanías it's variable. It used to be banned (I still remember when I was 3-4 years old, every subway station was manned!) That regulation obviously changed with the 2008 financial crisis, now only hubs and most line terminals have any staff to them. In Cercanías most stations do still have open ticket offices. Atendo (Spanish equivalent of Passenger assist) was abolished in Cercanías trains too around that time, to reduce operation costs, but here a wheelchair can enter a modern commuter train by itself, so it's not a big problem.

The only problem with unmanned stations is that big parts of the Catalan commuter system seem like Southeastern metro, with a massive amount of incidents. In Madrid it works well, though.
 

flymo

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The first lines opened, Haymarket - Tynemouth and Haymarket - Bankfoot had a few stations less than today. there was no stations at Kingston Park, Palmersville or Northumberland Park. Something like a 4 or 5 minute dash from Benton to Shiremoor alongside the British Rail freights heading to/from the Blyth & Tyne.
The line from Heworth to South Shields also never had a station at Pelaw when it opened.

Also remember the Rowntrees freights running through from Fawdon via Four Lane Ends heading to the Benton curve. Great to see 31's at Four Lane Ends..
 

hacman

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Red line services were running at least as late as 1997, as I remember using them. I don't think they were still advertised as red line, just yellow line starting/stopping short (maybe only in peak hours?)
They still run like this, but stop at either South Gosforth, Regent Centre, Benton or Monkseaton respectively.

More recent timetables had eliminated almost all the Regent Centre services. Since the sidings on the old north-west curve at Benton were lifted, Benton is used quite a bit less for turning sets round, with most reversing at either South Gosforth or Monkseaton.
 

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