Help shape Metro’s future

Big changes are coming to the Tyne and Wear Metro, including the first redesign of Metrocars in nearly forty years. Open Lab are working with Nexus, who manage the Metro, to involve people in the design of the new Metrocars.

Through a series of workshops, pop-up labs, video diaries and online discussions, Open Lab will gather people’s experiences of using Metro. Everything from seating layouts to wifi availability will come under scrutiny as the public help to design the Metrocars of the future. Open Lab will lead pop-up labs and workshops at locations across Tyne and Wear throughout November, while the Metro Futures website will allow people to explore the past, present and future of Metro. The project is a major example of Open Lab’s interest in citizen-led public service commissioning.

Simon Bowen, who leads the project for Open Lab, explained: “We believe it’s the people who use Metro – and also those who don’t – who are best placed to tell us what works and what doesn’t. For example, should there be somewhere for bags? What are the issues when travelling with prams or wheelchairs? How accessible is Metro for older people?

“At Open Lab, instead of the traditional passenger survey we are interested in how modern technology such as mobiles, tablets and web-based tools can be used to give people a voice in how the future Metro should look. By sharing experiences and imagining alternatives, we hope to discover how Metro is used now and how it might be used in forty years’ time. Our findings will be used to help Nexus commission a Metro that is right for the future.”

Serving communities for several decades

These insights will then be used as designs for new trains are developed with suppliers in 2017. The new carriage designs form part of a £1 billion investment into the Metro system and infrastructure.

Haymarket under construction

Haymarket station under construction in 1976

Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Nexus, said: “A new Metrocar fleet is essential to the future of Metro, and ranks as one of the most important projects we have led.

“These new trains will be serving our communities for several decades so we want to involve local people as much as possible in the design process, thinking not just about how they might use trains now, but through their whole lives. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Newcastle University’s Open Lab who are bringing exciting new digital and social tools to improve public engagement.”

These new tools will sit alongside more traditional forms of consultation, with passenger group Transport Focus providing market research, and Nexus conducting their own online consultation.

Newcastle City Futures

As well as helping to inform the design of new Metrocars, the Metro Futures project forms part of Newcastle City Futures, a partnership between academics, government, industry and local communities to explore the challenges and changes facing Newcastle in the future.

Mark Tewdwr-Jones is the Director of Newcastle City Futures. “Newcastle City Futures is delighted to support Metro Futures as an innovative project for Tyneside. This initiative demonstrates the way citizens, businesses and the university can all work together to proactively shape the future of Newcastle and its region.”

For more information on how to get involved visit or pick up a leaflet from a Metro TravelShop, or contact Simon Bowen.

Author: Mark Sleightholm

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