Metro celebrates the 40th anniversary of its Royal opening

A Metro cube
9 November 2021

The Tyne and Wear Metro is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen officially opening the network.

Her Majesty famously visited Tyneside to formally open Metro on November 6, 1981.

The Monarch, who was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, travelled on a Metro train to Gateshead where she unveiled a plaque. She also dedicated the new Queen Elizabeth II Metro bridge – the sixth bridge over the River Tyne.

Nexus, the public body which owns and Metro, said the Royal opening was a proud moment for the Metro, which has become one of North East England’s most successful post-war transport projects.

Chief Operating Officer at Nexus, Martin Kearney, said: “The Royal opening was a proud and iconic day for Metro and for the whole region. We’re delighted to mark the 40th anniversary of the Queen’s visit. 

“I am sure there are many people who can remember November 6, 1981, and there are many iconic photographs and videos in the archive showing the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh as they travelled on a Metro train and opened the new Metro bridge over the Tyne.

“Metro is undoubtedly one of our region’s greatest achievements. It’s a source of immense pride and affection.”

Leader of Gateshead Council and Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, Cllr Martin Gannon, said: “Metro is a vital part of the North East’s transport network and it is warming to think of its proud history including the iconic visit from Her Majesty The Queen opening the Metro 40 years ago. Local people will I’m sure remember this day very fondly as I do.”

The 1981 Royal visit, which drew large crowds in Newcastle city centre, marked the opening of Metro’s underground route from Haymarket through Monument and Central Station, continuing across the Tyne into Gateshead and on to a new southern terminus at Heworth.

The Queen took a ticket to ride, travelling on the Metro adjacent to the driver on the new line between Monument and Gateshead.

Half-way through the journey, the new Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge was officially opened in a ceremony which was cut short by a bomb scare - which thankfully came to nothing.

Once in Gateshead, the Metro system itself was officially opened by the Queen who made a short speech before unveiling a plaque. The Royal party then got back on the train to Heworth. On arrival there, in an unrehearsed move, Prince Philip spoke to the Metro driver, Jack Hall, and ended up sitting in his cab asking questions.

The day concluded with a reception at Newcastle Civic Centre.

Metro first opened to passengers in August 1980, but a Royal opening didn’t happen until the following year.

© 2022 Nexus Tyne and Wear - Public Transport and Local Information.