A Metro driver has spoken of his pride at transporting key workers, including scores of NHS staff who are on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus.
Craig Pearson, who has been driving Metro trains for seven years, paid his own tribute to those who can’t work from home and have to rely on public transport during the national crisis.
And he lifted the lid on what it is really like to be a Metro driver during the biggest public health emergency Britain has faced for generations.
Craig, 37, of Gateshead, said: “It’s all a bit strange at the moment. The Metros are very quiet compared to what we’re used to. It’s eerie.
“It’s just nice for us to play our part in helping those other key workers to get around the system and to get where they need to go.
“There are many NHS staff and other essential workers relying on the Metro. We get a lot of supermarket workers still travelling too, and they have found themselves thrust on to the frontline of all this.
“There are people all over the area that need to travel. People are needing to go shopping for food, and there are some people who are still going into work. We are there for them.”
He added: “New working systems have been put in place for the drivers and more protective equipment is needed than ever before. It’s been challenging but also rewarding because I feel like I am playing my part in helping the country at a time of crisis.
“What strikes me when I am on duty is how eerily quiet it is. For us it’s a case of the same routine of being in the cab by ourselves, but the level of quiet we see at 4am and 5am when we start taking the first trains out on the system is like that right across the day. It’s a strange thing for us to see.”
Craig, who now acts as mentor for trainee Metro drivers on top of his regular duties, is a former Northern Rock worker, so is only too familiar with the impacts of a major economic contraction.
And he had a special message for key workers. He said: “I’d say thank you to all of the other key workers out there.
“My message is just to keep going. We are going to get there and at some point we will return to normal.
“If you’re using the Metro system then make sure you follow the Government advice at all times – only travel it really is essential and wear a face covering.
“Keep your spirits up. Keep doing what you’re doing, and stay safe.”
Metro Operations Director, Chris Carson, said: “Our train crews and other key workers are doing a magnificent job at this time of crisis.
“They’re coming into work every day and keeping people on the move; people who rely on Metro, and many are NHS staff.
“Coronavirus has led to an unprecedented challenge in the 40-year history of the Tyne and Wear Metro and it’s been heartening to see the way that our employees have risen to the challenge.”