The Anonymous Widower

The Rather Ordinary Sunderland Station

The first impression given by a station when you arrive in a town or city is important.

Some like Cambridge, Kings Cross, Liverpool, London Bridge and Reading say you are arriving in a place that is important, but others fail to get over a positive message.

If you compare Sunderland station to those at Middlesbrough and Newcastle, it doesn’t score well.

This set of pictures shows the important Sunderland station, which serves a city of nearly 200,000 people.

it is very disappointing.

  • Passenger facilities are limited for a city, that is the size of Sunderland.
  • The lighting levels are not as high as the other Tyne and Wear Metro  stations, that are in tunnels.
  • It needs double escalators.
  • A coffee kiosk on the double platform would be welcome.

I get the impression that the station was designed down to a cost, rather than up to a passenger standard.

Station Capacity

The Metro currently runs five trains per hour (tph) between  NewcastleAirport and South Hylton stations. I suspect that the number of trains will increase when new trains run on this branch.

The Metro  has put forward proposals to run services on the Durham Coast Line to Seaham station. Four tph?

Northern will also be doubling the frequency of their hourly service between Middlesbrough and Newcastle.

These improvements could raise the train frequency from six to perhaps twelve tph.

Through trains will not be a problem, as with modern signalling and trains, the frequency of trains in both directions could be as high as the twenty tph, that will be running on the East London Line in a couple of years.

But would it be possible to turn Grand Central and Virgin services that terminate at Sunderland in the time available between Metro trains. The twelve minutes available at present with five Metro tph is obviously enough, but what if the Metro frequency were to be substantially increased?

As both Grand Central and Virgin would probably like to increase their frequencies to London, a solution will need to be found.

This diagram from Wikipedia, shows the track layout at Sunderland station.

This is the key to the diagram

  • Black lines: Track shared by Metro and mainline services, electrified at 1500 V DC overhead.
  • Green lines: Track used by Metro services only, electrified at 1500 V DC overhead.
  • Blue lines: Track used by mainline services only, not electrified.
  • Grey area: covered station shed.
  • Maroon area: Platforms.
  • Platform 1: Southbound mainline services.
  • Platform 2: Southbound Metro services.
  • Platform 3: Northbound Metro services.
  • Platform 4: Northbound mainline services.
  • A: Towards Newcastle
  • B: From Newcastle
  • C: From South Hylton
  • D: To South Hylton
  • E: Electrified siding
  • F: Non-electrified siding
  • G: From Middlesbrough
  • H: Towards Middlesbrough

I think an engineer named Baldrick has been at work and they’ve devised a cunning plan.

If you arrive from the South on the 16:38 Grand Central train, it appears that it returns at 17:31.

So does it use time profitably, by sitting in the non-electrified siding labelled F, where it is refuelled and restocked, whilst the crew get a well-needed rest?


  • Let us suppose the frequency through Sunderland is twelve tph or a train every five minutes.
  • A train from London arrives in Platform 4 and would have five minutes to reverse into the siding.
  • When it leaves for London, it would a five minute window to move into Platform 1, pick up passengers and proceed South.
  • The current service is five trains per day.

It certainly looks possible, but as there are two sidings and twelve five minute slots in an hour, I suspect that theoretically at least four tph could be turned back South if required.

Note that if the trains had a degree of automation, this would make a higher frequency attaining a higher frequency a lot easier.

, I also suspect the capacity of the East Coast Main Line restricts services to Sunderland, more than the actual capacity at Sunderland station.


The track layout at Sunderland station seems to have been designed to handle many more through trains than it does now!

In addition, it has a large capacity to turn trains from the South.

Obviously, modern trains and signalling is required.

Sunderland station may appear to be rather ordinary, but the track layout can cope with a lot of trains.

February 6, 2018 - Posted by | Transport | , ,


  1. […] I describe the station and its operation in The Rather Ordinary Sunderland Station. […]

    Pingback by Exploring The Tyne And Wear Metro « The Anonymous Widower | February 6, 2018 | Reply

  2. Having lived in the North for nearly all my life, when I moved to the South East I was surprised at the level of facilities in even the smallest of stations. I always thought only the most major of stations had toilet facilities, then I discover that even stations like Earlswood and Salfords on the Brighton Mainline have them! But I think things have improved in the North in recent years.

    Comment by Matthew | February 7, 2018 | Reply

  3. I do wonder if in London and the South East, the Underground and the commuter trains were developed without toilets, as dealing with the problems in tunnels with pre-1950s toilets was a bit difficult.

    So they put the toilets on the stations, where they could have main drainage

    It’s surprising to see so many pre-1947 Underground stations have toilets.

    Crossrail is also being developed without toilets on trains, but many stations seem to have toilets.

    Comment by AnonW | February 7, 2018 | Reply

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