His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has paid a special visit to the Tyne and Wear Metro today (Tues 9 Nov) to mark the 40th anniversary of its Royal opening in 1981.
Prince Charles took a whistle-stop tour of the Metro network to celebrate the landmark occasion, and to recognise the hard work of staff during lockdown.
The prince followed in the footsteps of his mother and father, the Queen and Prince Philip, who visited Tyneside on November 6, 1981, to officially open Metro and dedicate the QEII Metro bridge over the River Tyne.
The heir to the throne, who was in the region for a day of engagements, was in great spirits as he met staff and volunteers before travelling two stops on the Metro through Newcastle city centre, from Central Station to Haymarket, where he unveiled a commemorative plaque.
The Prince’s visit kicked off at Central station, where he was met by the Chief Operating Officer of Nexus, Martin Kearney.
Mr Kearney said: “It was a huge honour to welcome His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Metro’s Royal opening and recognise the outstanding efforts of our staff during lockdown.
“He was keen to hear about the challenges we faced due to Covid-19. I was honoured to introduce His Royal Highness to some of the employees who performed so heroically to keep public transport working right through lockdown, and for making our customers feel safe.
“I explained that Metro has recovered well from the impact of lockdown and that passenger numbers are back to 80% and we are encouraging more people to come back.
“The Royal visit was a great confidence boost for the whole public transport industry.
“The Prince was also keen to hear about Metro’s environmental credentials, taking 11 million car journeys off the road and being entirely powered from non-carbon sources.
“And of course there was a chance to tell him about Metro’s 40 years of operations, what an amazing success story it has become, and that the train he was travelling on was the same one that the Queen travelled on in 1981.”
His Royal Highness was given a warm Tyneside welcome when he arrived at Newcastle Central Station.
On Metro the Prince was introduced Nexus’ staff who worked on the frontline right through lockdown. He met Metro driver Suzanna Brownlee, Customer Services Manager Sarah Gaul, Shields Ferry skipper Nathan Williamson, and Metro Customer Services Supervisor Debbie Thompson.
The Prince then spoke to a group of volunteer knitters from North Tyneside who made a giant woollen Metro train during lockdown. He spoke with Wendy Helps and Sue Grey from the Whitley Bay Knit and Natter group to learn more about the fascinating community project and got the chance to have a close look at their magical woollen creation.
Prince Charles then boarded Metrocar 4020 – the same train that the Queen had travelled on in 1981 – for the brief ride to Haymarket. During the journey he chatted with two Metro staff members with 40 years of service, Workshop Technician Steve Griffin and Buildings and Facilities Production Supervisor Richard Harrison.
On arrival at Haymarket Metro station, the Prince unveiled a plaque in the ticket hall to mark Metro’s 40th anniversary, before the visit concluded and he was whisked away to his next engagement.