A retired Metro driver has spoken of his pride at being one of the first people to drive a train on the network, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Ian Rossiter, 61, of High Heaton in Newcastle, was among the first ever batch of drivers when Metro began operating in the summer of 1980.
Ian, who retired in January 2019, said that the Metro was an amazing achievement and that its 40th anniversary was something to really celebrate.
He said: “It was a special time. There was a great deal of excitement about the opening of this new Metro system. It was state-of-the art.
“It was an amazing achievement to have our own underground system – and there I was, a 21 year-old lad who was getting the chance to drive the first trains.
He added: “It’s fantastic that the Metro has reached its 40th anniversary. It is something that really should be heralded. It may have its detractors but it has really put our region on the map. Other cities didn’t have a Metro. We pioneered that as a solution to road congestion.
“To even get a Metro built was something that they pulled off against all the odds. No other city outside of London was able to match it.
“People were fascinated by the Metro. They were coming in their droves to travel on it. There was great pride and camaraderie among the drivers. Most of us knew each other from working at British Rail.
“When we had nights out people would always want to talk to us when they found out that we were Metro drivers. It was a bit like being a rock star.”
Ian, who rose through the ranks to become a senior Metro manager, went on to play a key role in the £100m project to extend the Metro system to Sunderland in 2002. He was responsible for training Metro drivers and amalgamating operating rules so that Metro trains could access the line between Pelaw and South Hylton, which is owned by Network Rail.
He even had the unenviable job of choosing the Metro driver who drove the train that Her Majesty The Queen travelled on when she officially opened the extension.
As a long serving Metro driver Ian has played a role on every single Great North Run since the event started.
“The only times I didn’t work that day was the years I actually ran it,” he explained. “We have an excellent record serving an event that has put the region on the world stage.”
TV fame came Ian’s way in 2015 when he was asked to star in a Barclays advert with Toon legend Alan Shearer. “There was a casting process and I was lucky enough to get picked. I was the Metro driver who took a young Shearer to his football training when he was a kid.”
He added: “When I think back to my dad pestering me to fill that form in to become a Metro driver I realise now how significant it was. It was a brilliant career. I’ve gained many qualifications and have made some amazing friends. Metro is like a family and will always be there to serve the people of Tyne and Wear. I’m enormously proud to have been a part of it.”