One of the first people to drive a train on the Tyne and Wear Metro has retired after 40 years of dedicated service.
Ian Rossiter, 60, of High Heaton in Newcastle, was among the first ever batch of drivers to get behind the controls of the iconic Metro trains when they were brand new in the summer of 1980.
Ian, who was just 21 when he became a Metro driver, has seen it all over the years – and he spoke with great pride of starting work on a mass transport system that made Tyneside the envy of other UK cities.
He said: “It was a special time. There was a great deal of excitement about the opening of this new, state-of-the art Metro. 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.
“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 haven’t worked that day was the years I actually ran it,” he explained. “Metro has given brilliant service to the Great North Run over so many years. Yes, we had a terrible year in 2015, but apart from that we have an excellent record serving an event that has put the region on the world stage.”
Over four decades Ian has seen all manner of incidents and disruptions.
He said: “I’ve seen tracks subside due to mine workings, burst water mains, and the supercell storm on ‘Thunder Thursday’ back in June 2012 that brought the entire Metro system to halt in less than an hour.
“We know passengers get frustrated when things go wrong, but what you have to look at is how many good days the Metro has. It far outweighs the bad, and it does such a great job carrying so many people, so quickly. The capacity of the Metro trains would take about seven double decker buses to match it.”
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.”
Ian leaves Metro with happy memories and is in the process of setting up his own rail consultancy firm.
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. I’ve had 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.”