A local author has written a new book celebrating 40 years of the Tyne and Wear Metro, after being inspired by his late father who worked as an engineer on the project.
Colin Alexander, a published writer from North Tyneside, was motivated by the memory of his dad, Jack Alexander, a rolling stock engineer that played a key role in getting the Metro trains into service in August 1980.
Colin spent 15 months writing and researching the book, which delves into the history of Metro over its 40 years of operations. He draws on the testimony of many former staff who there when the network first opened.
Titled The Tyne and Wear Metro, it chronicles the development of the system from concept through to construction, opening, extension, and where it stands today, with a look ahead where it will be in the years to come.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, provided many of the iconic archive images that feature in the book.
Colin, 57, of Whitley Bay, said: “I always really wanted to do a book about the Metro because of my dad, Jack, who spent so many years working on that iconic project.
“It also seemed fitting to do it in the year that the Metro celebrated its 40th anniversary.
“I’m so proud of what my father achieved during his time with the PTE. He was an engineer who joined them in 1973 after he was made redundant at the shipyards. He went on to work on the rolling stock and he was there for 20 years before he retired.
“This inspired me to delve into the history of the Metro, from what was there before, to how it became a concept and was constructed, and then extended over the years.
“I got in touch with many of dad’s former colleagues who are all now retired. I was amazed to find that so many of them still meet up quite regularly for a drink.
“I went along and was able to meet them and they were so happy to help me out with the book. Many of them were quite senior managers at the time that the Metro opened. Just like my dad, they all had a real sense of pride in what they had been a part of. I got some wonderful anecdotes that are included in the book.
“I was able to get lots of stories, technical information and archive photos in. Nexus also helped by allowing me access to the archive they have from Metro’s construction and the years that followed it.
“I was able to delve into Metro’s past, present, and look to its future with the new trains on the way and where it may be extended to one day.
“I really hope that people like the book and when they read it they get a feel for what a fantastic transport system the Metro is, what an amazing achievement it was to get it built, and how lucky we are to have it.”
Customer Services Director at Nexus, Huw Lewis, said: “The Tyne and Wear Metro has an amazing story and this book tells that story really well, with archive images and memories from former staff who built a transport system which has become part of everyday life in our region.
“It is fitting that the book has been published in Metro’s 40th anniversary year. It was a network built against all the odds and stands as a major post-war achievement that remains the envy of other UK cities.
“The people who made the Metro a reality were pioneers and this book celebrates that success, as we look ahead to a bright future with the new trains coming in 2023.”
The book explores the decline of the BR suburban lines that were replaced, the phased opening of the new system from 1980, and subsequent extensions.
It also looks at those being considered in the future. The successful integration of the Metro with bus and ferry services is considered, alongside the inclusivity of the railway’s design, which allows disabled people unprecedented access to public transport.
It illustrates Metro’s unique combination of brand-new tunnels, spectacular viaducts and underground stations, taking in the magnificent Victorian infrastructure of the former North Eastern Railway and Blyth and Tyne Railway.
Memories of the Royal opening of Metro in November 1981 feature in the book. There is a poignant memory of the late Prince Philip, who, during the visit held up the proceedings after he strolled on to the new QEII Metro bridge to admire the view of the River Tyne.
Colin Alexander has previously written books about local history and transport. His writing career has seen him have 15 books published in print.
To buy a copy of Colin’s book, The Tyne and Wear Metro, published by Amberley Publishing, go to: The Tyne & Wear Metro - Amberley Publishing (amberley-books.com)
A selection of extracts from the book is available here - and by clicking the link at the bottom of this page