The number of people using the Tyne and Wear Metro rose above 40 million in 2015, the highest passenger number for five years.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, puts the growth down to the convenience and value Metro offers and the introduction of Pop card smart tickets offering passengers easier and more flexible ways to pay for travel.
There were 1.3 million more journeys on Metro in 2015 compared to the previous calendar year, taking total passenger numbers to just over 40 million for the first time since February 2011.
Passenger numbers have grown by 4.6 million – or more than 13% – in the two years since major modernisation work was completed on Metro’s main route through Newcastle.
Local authority leaders said the growth in passenger numbers underlined the case for further investment in Metro, including Government support to build new trains for the 36-year-old network,
Cllr Nick Forbes, regional transport lead for the North East Combined Authority, said: “Metro is a great example of what can be achieved when local areas take responsibility for transport infrastructure. It is a success story invented and delivered in the north east.
“It is vital that we build on Metro’s popularity by investing to make sure it can continue to serve the travelling public long into the future. That’s why our devolution proposals to government include significant investment in the Metro to make it even better and allow more passengers to use it in future.”
Cllr John Harrison, chairman of the Combined Authority’s Tyne and Wear Sub-Committee, which oversees Metro, said: “One in every eight passengers using Metro now was not travelling two years ago, thanks to our efforts to keep fares low and roll-out smart ticket travel. Strong growth in Metro passenger numbers is positive news for the local economy, as well as underlining the continued popularity of Metro.
“Metro is a vital local service for many people, and as well as celebrating growing passenger numbers we need to make sure its many long-standing customers, and the thousands of new ones who now travel every day, get the best possible service. Although 40 million passengers is a fantastic achievement, we are not complacent and this news makes us even more determined to make sure Metro trains run to timetable.”
Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Nexus, said: “Metro passenger numbers have risen above 40 million for the first time in five years, and that success is about the convenience and value the system offers.
“Nexus has kept fares on Metro low, and through the Pop card we have led the way in smart travel outside London to give people easy and more flexible ways to buy travel. This has all helped to build passenger numbers.”