5.3 million passengers use Central station every year making it the third busiest station on the system.
Railway history: the North East tradition
Tyne and Wear owes its place in railway history to the inventive genius of engineers such as George and Robert Stephenson, who developed the earliest steam of locomotives as a means of improving the transport of coal from the pitheads of Northumberland and Durham to river piers and wharves. Previously coal had been hauled along largely wooden railways that relied on horsepower, human effort or the force of gravity. From the structures of this period, Causey Arch and Beckley Burn embankment remain as the oldest surviving railway viaduct and embankment in the world.
George Stephenson built his first engine ‘Blucher’ in 1814 when he was an enginewright at Killingworth Colliery. He and his son went on to apply new technology to the construction of passenger railways. Their workshops at Killingworth (1804-1826) are now the site of a railway museum. In 1823 they established in Forth Street, Newcastle, the world’s first locomotive construction company, and two years later opened the first passenger system in the world-the Stockton and Darlington Railway-with their engine ‘Locomotion’. It was in Forth Street that they built their most famous locomotive, ‘Rocket’, which set new standards of speed and efficiency, winning the Rainhill Trials in 1829 and inaugurating in 1830 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the world’s first intercity link.
During the following decade rail development came to Tyneside. The initial lines were mainly industrial, but in 1839 the Newcastle and North Shield’s Railway began service-and this has a claim to the distinction of being the first suburban passenger railway in the world. Its alignment, together with other sections of the early rail system, now forms part of the Metro route.
At the end of the 19th century, the area possessed a broad network of suburban railways, largely under the ownership of the North Eastern Railway Company. In 1904 the company brought a further technological advance to the North East when it electrified its busiest section, the Newcastle to Tynemouth line- one of the first outside London to be electrified. The line was extended in 1908 to form the North Tyne Loop; more lines were brought within the system, and by 1937 electrification had crossed the Tyne to South Shields.