Here are the weirdest & most aggravating station names on the Tyne & Wear Metro

A Metro train at Monument. Image: Callum Cape/Wikipedia.

Editor’s note: On Twitter, after publishing yet another rant about London station names, I noted that I would be delighted to publish similar rants about other cities, if only anyone thought to send them to me. One hero stepped forward.

1. West Jesmond

There are two Metro stops in this suburb – Jesmond, and West Jesmond. Here’s a map of the two:

Image: Open Street Map.

In the name of accuracy, I’m petitioning to either have Jesmond renamed “South Jesmond”, or West Jesmond renamed “North-by-North-by-Northwest Jesmond”.

2. University

Which university? Newcastle University, student population 23,700? No, that’s at Haymarket.

Northumbria University, student population, 27,200? No, that’s also at Haymarket (or Four Lane Ends, if you want the out-of-town campus).

University of Sunderland, student population 13,000? Yes! Well, sort of. The Sunderland City Campus is at University – but the St Peter’s Campus is at St Peter’s.

So if you’re heading to a university on Tyne & Wear, statistically speaking you almost certainly do not want University Metro station.

3. Central

Central is the Metro station that connects to Newcastle railway station, so its name makes some sense. The only problem is it’s not really central to anything – nor is it the central interchange on the Metro network.

The network map. Image: Nexus Tyne & Wear.

If you want central Newcastle – or any destination towards North Shields – you should head to Monument, the next station along and a fair walk uphill from Central.

4. Percy Main

I was going to give this one a pass, since although there’s nothing “Main” about it, Percy Main is also a (weirdly-named) village. But I looked it up on Wikipedia and it tells me the village “is named after the Duke of Northumberland's railway station, Percy Main”.

So it’s a railway station, named after a village, named after a railway station, owned by a guy called Percy, who apparently had so many stations he needed to note which was his main one. This is a dangerous level of recursion.

(UPDATE: The internet tells us that this one is actually named after the Main coal seam. The things you learn.)


5. Tyne Dock

This one is a relic of history, but one that’s potentially disastrous for tourists. There was once a huge port at Tyne Dock (part of South Shields), but much of it was filled in in the 1980s and today it’s just warehouses.

The passenger terminal of the Port of Tyne, which is where the ferry to Amsterdam departs from, is actually on the other side of the river. The port is really badly connected to the Metro network anyway, so I wouldn’t try it unless you fancy a mile-long walk down a dual carriageway.

6. Four Lane Ends

I like the quaintness of this one, but there’s no getting away from the fact those four lanes are now two busy A-roads and they don’t so much “end” as “cross each other”.

7. Bank Foot

It’s at the foot of a bank I guess? It used to be called Kenton Bank, but for some reason when they inaugurated the Metro they deleted the useful word “Kenton” – the village it’s actually near – and added the useless word “Foot”.

It’s a pointless station – it used to be where the shuttle bus to the airport went from, but now there’s an extension right up to the airport terminal so the remotely-placed Bank Foot serves no real purpose. It’s the fourth least-used on the network, and frankly I’m surprised it’s even that high.

Anyway, it’s the only Tyne and Wear Metro station that could be clearly and unambiguously signposted in emoji.

8. Hadrian Road

A classic example of the problems with naming a station after a road. Hadrian Road is a fairly long road along the north bank of the Tyne, mostly lined with industrial units. And there are two, maybe three stations on it: Hadrian Road, Wallsend and arguably Howdon.

If you actually had to use Hadrian Road station, you probably wouldn’t approach it from Hadrian Road anyway, but from the housing estate to the north. That said, few people do have to use Hadrian Road: it has the third fewest passengers of any station on the network.

9. Stadium of Light

Pretty self explanatory, right? It’s the station for Sunderland FC’s home ground, the Stadium of Light.

Except it’s not, if you’re actually from Sunderland. To prevent overcrowding on match days, the Stadium of Light station is only meant to be used by fans travelling from Newcastle and other northern stations. Those coming from stations to the south – an area which includes most of Sunderland – should use St Peter’s, which is actually slightly closer to the stadium anyway, instead.

That said, the fact that St Peter’s is the least-used station on the entire network suggests Sunderland fans don’t take that rule entirely seriously.


10. Byker

Not a problem in itself, but whenever the announcement comes on, you can be pretty sure some out-of-town idiot will sing, “Byker, Byker, Byker Grove!” in cod-Geordie. (Full disclosure: I have definitely been this idiot.)

Honourable mention: MetroCentre

It's not a Metro station but a normal railway station, which is precisely what makes it so confusing.

Things used to be worse: until 1993 it was called "Gateshead Metro Centre", which given the fact it's connected by bus to both Gateshead Metro station and Central Metro station all sounds like the set-up to a terrible "Who's on first?" joke.

If the extension plans go ahead, this will eventually be part of the actual Metro network. I'm not sure if that will result in any less confusion.

Stephen Jorgenson-Murray tweets as @stejormur.

If you would like to complain about the names of stations in your city, you know where we are.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook

 
 
 
 

“Stop worrying about hairdressers”: The UK government has misdiagnosed its productivity problem

We’re going as fast as we can, here. Image: Getty.

Gonna level with you here, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I’m a huge fan of schadenfreude, so learning that it the government has messed up in a previously unsuspected way gives me this sort of warm glow inside. On the other hand, the way it’s been screwing up is probably making the country poorer, and exacerbating the north south divide. So, mixed reviews really.

Here’s the story. This week the Centre for Cities (CfC) published a major report on Britain’s productivity problem. For the last 200 years, ever since the industrial revolution, this country has got steadily richer. Since the financial crash, though, that seems to have stopped.

The standard narrative on this has it that the problem lies in the ‘long tail’ of unproductive businesses – that is, those that produce less value per hour. Get those guys humming, the thinking goes, and the productivity problem is sorted.

But the CfC’s new report says that this is exactly wrong. The wrong tail: Why Britain’s ‘long tail’ is not the cause of its productivity problems (excellent pun, there) delves into the data on productivity in different types of businesses and different cities, to demonstrate two big points.

The first is that the long tail is the wrong place to look for productivity gains. Many low productivity businesses are low productivity for a reason:

The ability of manufacturing to automate certain processes, or the development of ever more sophisticated computer software in information and communications have greatly increased the output that a worker produces in these industries. But while a fitness instructor may use a smartphone today in place of a ghetto blaster in 1990, he or she can still only instruct one class at a time. And a waiter or waitress can only serve so many tables. Of course, improvements such as the introduction of handheld electronic devices allow orders to be sent to the kitchen more efficiently, will bring benefits, but this improvements won’t radically increase the output of the waiter.

I’d add to that: there is only so fast that people want to eat. There’s a physical limit on the number of diners any restaurant can actually feed.

At any rate, the result of this is that it’s stupid to expect local service businesses to make step changes in productivity. If we actually want to improve productivity we should focus on those which are exporting services to a bigger market.  There are fewer of these, but the potential gains are much bigger. Here’s a chart:

The y-axis reflects number of businesses at different productivities, shown on the x-axis. So bigger numbers on the left are bad; bigger numbers on the right are good. 

The question of which exporting businesses are struggling to expand productivity is what leads to the report’s second insight:

Specifically it is the underperformance of exporting businesses in cities outside of the Greater South East that causes not only divergences across the country in wages and standards of living, but also hampers national productivity. These cities in particular should be of greatest concern to policy makers attempting to improve UK productivity overall.

In other words, it turned out, again, to the north-south divide that did it. I’m shocked. Are you shocked? This is my shocked face.

The best way to demonstrate this shocking insight is with some more graphs. This first one shows the distribution of productivity in local services business in four different types of place: cities in the south east (GSE) in light green, cities in the rest of the country (RoGB) in dark green, non-urban areas in the south east in purple, non-urban areas everywhere else in turquoise.

The four lines are fairly consistent. The light green, representing south eastern cities has a lower peak on the left, meaning slightly fewer low productivity businesses, but is slightly higher on the right, meaning slightly more high productivity businesses. In other words, local services businesses in the south eastern cities are more productive than those elsewhere – but the gap is pretty narrow. 

Now check out the same graph for exporting businesses:

The differences are much more pronounced. Areas outside those south eastern cities have many more lower productivity businesses (the peaks on the left) and significantly fewer high productivity ones (the lower numbers on the right).

In fact, outside the south east, cities are actually less productive than non-urban areas. This is really not what you’d expect to see, and no a good sign for the health of the economy:

The report also uses a few specific examples to illustrate this point. Compare Reading, one of Britain’s richest medium sized cities, with Hull, one of its poorest:

Or, looking to bigger cities, here’s Bristol and Sheffield:

In both cases, the poorer northern cities are clearly lacking in high-value exporting businesses. This is a problem because these don’t just provide well-paying jobs now: they’re also the ones that have the potential to make productivity gains that can lead to even better jobs. The report concludes:

This is a major cause for concern for the national economy – the underperformance of these cities goes a long way to explain both why the rest of Britain lags behind the Greater South East and why it performs poorly on a

European level. To illustrate the impact, if all cities were as productive as those in the Greater South East, the British economy would be 15 per cent more productive and £225bn larger. This is equivalent to Britain being home to four extra city economies the size of Birmingham.

In other words, the lesson here is: stop worrying about the productivity of hairdressers. Start worrying about the productivity of Hull.


You can read the Centre for Cities’ full report here.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook