Twenty years today since the Queen officially opened Sunderland's Metro extension

A former Tyne and Wear Metro boss has spoken of his pride at expanding the network to Sunderland and recounted the day when the Queen visited the city.

Saturday, 7th May 2022, 11:49 am

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Mike Parker was the Director General of Nexus between 1994 and 2006 – during that time he oversaw the £100m extension of the transport network to Sunderland, which was opened by the Queen in May 2002.

Since it was opened, 138 million customer journeys have been carried out over the last two decades.

Her Majesty officially opened the Sunderland line on May 7, 2002.

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He said: “It was the biggest project that Nexus had been involved in for decades, and it was a project that was long overdue.

“People in Sunderland really wanted the Metro in the city. It was a project which had been looked at in the early 1990s but when I came in I felt that we had paid lip service to the idea.

“There was some good work done before I arrived as director general in 1994 and after that it moved up the political agenda and we looked seriously at the potential for new Metro routes.

“It was eventually decided to use the existing lines to run Metro into the centre of Sunderland and we won a combination of Government and EU funding to make it happen. It was a huge project and certainly the biggest in my 12 years in charge of Nexus.

As part of her visit, the Queen took a short journey from Park Lane to Fellgate.

“We had to do a lot of lobbying and when that was successful, we had to negotiate all of the plans with Rail Track, now Network Rail, and the Rail Regulator.

“Once all of the negotiations were completed it was a very much the job of our project team to deliver the construction phase.”

Mike showed Her Majesty around on that day and has recalled what it was like to sit on a Metro train with the Queen.

Former Nexus boss Mike Parker has reflected on what he described as a "remarkable journey" with Her Majesty.

He commented: “It was a very proud day for the Tyne and Wear Metro and for Sunderland, and Her Majesty was terrific.

"I had to do a short speech before Her Majesty unveiled the plaque and I had made sure that I’d practiced it for numerous days in advance.

“Both myself and the transport authority chairman at the time, Cllr Danny Marshall, then took the Queen down to the platform at Park Lane, where we boarded a special train for a trip on the new Sunderland line up to Fellgate.

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Children stood on platforms along the line to wave their flags as the Queen went by on the train.

“The train didn’t stop on the route but it slowed down as we went through each station so the Queen could wave to the school children we had arranged to wave at her from the platforms.

“There was a lovely moment when the train went by some pigeon lofts and the Queen mentioned told me that she kept racing pigeons at the Sandringham Estate, and that her pigeon keeper was the son of an Italian cream seller.

"It was remarkable. I was quite surprised at how easy it was to talk to the Queen on that short train journey."