Community leaders have hailed the importance of the Tyne and Wear Metro on its 40th anniversary.
Bosses at all five local authorities have praised the social and economic impact of Metro over four decades of operations, during which time the network has carried 1.5 billion passengers.
And they looked ahead to a bright future for the service, with funding in place for a state-of-the-art new train fleet, which is set to arrive 2023, and a £70m new depot.
Leader of Gateshead Council and Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, Cllr Martin Gannon, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to wish the Metro a happy birthday.
“This is a celebration of 40 years of transformational service for all of the people of Tyne and Wear.
“I can remember when the Metro opened in Gateshead with the visit of Her Majesty the Queen.
“The Metro has made a huge economic and social contribution for the people of Gateshead over 40 years, and there are many more successful years to come.”
Leader of Sunderland Council, Cllr Graeme Miller, said: “It’s great to be able to wish the Metro a happy 40th birthday.
“Sunderland has had the Metro since 2002 and it’s an undoubted element of our success. Our residents rely on it to get to and from work, to get across the wider region.
“It’s my great pleasure to wish the Metro another 40 years of success, and maybe for the 50th anniversary we can bring the Metro to Washington.”
Leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Forbes, said: “For 40 years the Metro has been the arteries and veins, carrying people in and out of Newcastle, whether that’s for work, or for a night out.
“Without Metro we would not be the great city that we are.
“It adds to our lives. It adds to our economy. It adds to our social spheres. Metro connects us in a way that no other public transport system in the UK does.”
The Elected Mayor of North Tyneside, Norma Redfearn, said: “It hard to believe that it’s been 40 years since we celebrated the opening of Metro, an iconic transport system for the people of North Tyneside and the wider area. It’s absolutely amazing.
“I don’t think we realise how lucky we are to have a Metro system. It is so important to us.
“Everyday it is useful for getting us to work, to school, to see our friends and to get us to places on time.”
Lead Member for Transport and Housing at South Tyneside Council, Cllr Mark Walsh, said: “A happy 40th anniversary to the Tyne and Wear Metro.
“The Metro has been welcoming seven and a half million visitors every year to our beautiful town and borough, and we are looking forward to the next 40 years of it bringing people to South Shields and South Tyneside.”
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “For 40 years this iconic transport network has been part of everyday life in our region, helping us get to school and to places of work.
“One of the things I love about the Metro is that it’s a safe system to use, and that is because of the fantastic relationship it has with the Northumbria Force, allied with a fantastic amount of effort and commitment to keep the network safe, so that everyone in our region can use it.
“The new trains are coming in the next few years and I look forward to working with Nexus in the future and seeing them develop and grow for the next 40 years.”