3:51pm. There's a lot of sloppy driving going on! These things should respond immediately to the controls (unlike a six-car Comeng which has air brakes), so it should be possible to organize gentle pull-ups. If you need to do it by the numbers (eg "if you're at 50, cut off and hit the brakes when you pass that tree") go for it, but put a bit of care into driving!
3:58pm. Howarth - the reservation now has two Metro tracks and two Network Rail - we've just crossed a Sprinter and a freight.
4:37pm. Departing South Hylton. It's a single platform but that's OK as they never have more than 5tph running here. It looks like a new line - new poles, concrete sleepers, clean ballast. Earthworks look like they've been here a while, maybe it was converted from a BR line.
4:40pm. Pallion station - looks very new. Has a very long stairway like Jolimont.
4:47pm. Sunderland - another ex BR station converted to Metro. For some reason approach is dead slow. There's a Railbus in the other platform - obviously the conversion wasn't exclusive. We go out through a tunnel with skylights in it! Probably from the days of steam. I wonder what the natives think of their city being treated as an annexe of Newcastle - hopefully they appreciate a 5tph Metro even if the desto says "Airport" when they only want to cross town.
4:54pm. We're out of the Sunderland area and it's interurban. Pity about the 80km/h speed limit. At least the level crossings have booms and no speed restriction.
5:08pm. Pelaw - over on the Network Rail side is 66703 with a coalie and a Class 43/Mk.3 set in black with Grand Central on the side. A new livery on me, I wonder who they are.
5:10pm. Pelaw Junction is quite complicated - it has to take two shared Metro/country tracks from Sunderland with one Metro and one country line from South Shields (both bi-directional) and merge or split them into two country lines and two initially bi-di Metro lines. As far as we can see from four trips over it, it looks fairly efficient.
5:17pm. Back at Central. It's raining, it's starting to get dark, and we'll be up early again tomorrow. Let's just go home. There's a nice touch screen Journey Planner on the main platform, which says the 5:32 London Kings Cross will get us to York in time for a quick connection with a train to Manchester. Good stuff. Bye Tyne & Wear Metro, it was nice meeting you.
5:39pm. National Express running seven minutes late? It's been a lot worse... We're on a Mk.4 set with a Class 91 loco behind us. Can't hear anything though.
5:53pm. Let's sum up the Tyne & Wear Metro. The vehicles seem a bit feeble in capacity to us who are used to a 1000-passenger train, but seem to be up to the patronage they get. Station spacing is a mix, most of it is about right for a Metro but the Sunderland section is too sparse. Having country trains go there too is good - it means the two towns effectively have separate Metros that happen to work through. Having hardly any level crossings is good. 5tph off peak including Saturdays is great. GoZoning the two lines through the busiest part of the city is VERY good. Trip time is reasonable - counting North Shields as a watershed (ie people pick the shortest trip from there to Newcastle instead of going right round) and Sunderland as the destination of choice rather than Newcastle, all trips are under half an hour. Through ticketing with the buses is good (of course). The amount of elevated track is NOT A PROBLEM (as we keep saying). Overall, it's a good metro system for a city the size of Newcastle.
6:42pm. We arrive York 11 minutes down. The 6:40 Manchester is just leaving as we arrive. Grumble, thanks a lot NX. Oh well, the next one's in half an hour. Woohoo, thanks Trans Pennine!
6:50pm. We might as well get aboard - a Class 185 is a lot more comfortable to wait on than a windswept platform.