SUNDERLAND fans were escorted through Newcastle city centre by police officers ahead of the Tyne-Wear derby.
No designated Metro trains for Sunderland supporters are in service, and police said there would not be the usual escort for fans from Newcastle Central railway station to St James’s Park, but more officers will be on duty than ever before.
With more than 200,000 people expected in Newcastle on the last Sunday before Christmas, police said they will have officers lining key routes and are confident the occasion will be a secure one for supporters.
Chief Superintendent Steve Neill said on Friday: “Our message to Sunderland fans is that it is going to be a safe event.
“Supporters should think about travel arrangements and leave plenty of time for their journey, because it will be busy, and we are expecting more than 200,000 people to visit the city.
“We will have more officers on duty for the derby than we ever have before.
“Officers will line key routes, and will also be present on Metro stations from Sunderland to Newcastle and on the Metros themselves to reassure people.”
The decisions not to put on designated Metros or provide a police escort from the train station have been criticised by some supporters.
However, police were hopeful that taking what they describe as a mature approach will work.
Chief Supt Neill added: “We have decided to do things slightly differently this year and have been having meetings with fans’ groups about this for about a year.
“We think, from those meetings and talks with both clubs, as well as the local authority and transport services, that this is the best way.
“It is a more mature way of how we police the derby, while we also try to minimise the impact it has on the transport system.
“We have worked very closely with the clubs, and they have been fully supportive of the plans, as have the local authority, the business community and the fans’ groups we have met with.”