Nexus, which owns and manages Metro, says the growth is down to the convenience and value Metro offers and the introduction of Pop card smart tickets offering passengers easier and more flexible ways to pay for travel.
There were 1.3million more journeys on Metro in 2015 compared to the previous calendar year, taking total passenger numbers to just over 40 million for the first time since February 2011.
Passenger numbers have grown by 4.6million – or more than 13% – in the two years since major modernisation work was completed on Metro’s main route through Newcastle.
Council leaders have said the growth in passenger numbers underlined the case for further investment in Metro, including Government support to build new trains for the 36-year-old network.
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Councillor John Harrison, chairman of the Combined Authority’s Tyne and Wear Sub-Committee, which oversees Metro, said: “One in every eight passengers using Metro now was not travelling two years ago, thanks to our efforts to keep fares low and roll-out smart ticket travel. Strong growth in Metro passenger numbers is positive news for the local economy, as well as underlining the continued popularity of Metro.
“Metro is a vital local service for many people, and as well as celebrating growing passenger numbers we need to make sure its many long-standing customers, and the thousands of new ones who now travel every day, get the best possible service. Although 40 million passengers is a fantastic achievement, we are not complacent and this news makes us even more determined to make sure Metro trains run to timetable.”
Tobyn Hughes, managing director of Nexus, said: “Metro passenger numbers have risen above 40 million for the first time in five years, and that success is about the convenience and value the system offers.
“Nexus has kept fares on Metro low, and through the Pop card we have led the way in smart travel outside London to give people easy and more flexible ways to buy travel.
"This has all helped to build passenger numbers.”