Sunderland celebrates 10 years of the Metro + VIDEO

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IT was on the sunny morning of March 31, 2002, that a bright yellow Metro train first journeyed through the city of Sunderland with passengers on board.

The transport system had been open for more than 20 years in Newcastle, before its extension to Wearside was complete.

Eight new stations were built as part of the extension, with three from national rail ones converted for Metro services.

But there was soon disappointment as the day after the Metro came, train drivers who were part of the Aslef trade union went on strike.

The saga of the Metro’s Wearside extension had been a long-running one.

Plans had been in the early stages for its introduction in 1982, but four years later cash was prioritised for an extension to Newcastle Airport.

The Queen waves to children in Sunderland as she rides the Sunderland extension.

The Queen waves to children in Sunderland as she rides the Sunderland extension.

Then in 1990, a Washington and Sunderland link costing £100million was mooted.

However, the lack of available funding meant it could not be created.

Although it took years for planning and the sourcing of finance for the Wearside extension to become a reality, in the decade since it began it has carried more than 40million passengers.

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson today hailed the extension for the impact it has had.

“The Metro is a key part of the infrastructure in Sunderland, allowing people to move around the city freely and easily for both work and leisure,” he said.  

“We are sure the Metro in Sunderland will continue to go from strength to strength. Here’s to the next 10 years.”

About 13km of train line between Pelaw and Sunderland had to be converted for Metro use as part of the extension.

Bernard Garner, director general of Nexus, which owns and manages Metro, said: “Building and opening the Sunderland Metro line meant overcoming huge technical and financial challenges.

“But the difference it makes is there to see every day.

“Metro helped open the door to attracting people to Sunderland from far and wide, whether it is to shop, to visit, to study at Sunderland University, or attend world-class sport and culture at The Stadium of Light.

“We are continuing to explore the potential for new Metro lines or other complementary high quality public transport, in and around Sunderland in the years and decades ahead.”

Gary Hutchinson, SAFC commercial director and chairman of the Sunderland branch of the North East Chamber of Commerce, described the extension as “a wonderful addition to the city”.

He added: “A strong infrastructure is vital for a successful business community, and the service has enhanced our connectivity with the rest of the region, making Sunderland more accessible than ever.

“Like any major venue, the Stadium of Light requires outstanding transport provisions, and the Metro has continued to offer a speedy service for both football and music fans, moving a high percentage of substantial crowds for both Barclays Premier League matches and concerts.”

Shirley Atkinson, Sunderland University’s deputy vice-chancellor, said: “Since the opening of the Sunderland Line, literally thousands of our students and staff have benefitted over the last 10 years from the accessibility the Metro service offers between University and St Peter’s stations.

“The extension has certainly opened up our two campuses to the rest of the region, playing an important role in attracting students from across the North East and removing any travel barriers they previously may have faced.”

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