THE man who oversaw the construction of the Tyne and Wear Metro’s first network of tracks is retiring after a career spanning almost five decades in the railway industry.

Phil Kirkland, from Stocksfield, will step down as head maintenance delivery at Nexus in November after 47 years in the industry.

Phil (64) managed the bulk of the Metro’s installation between 1979 and 1984, putting in the now familiar alignments that carried Metro services from 1980 onwards.

He spoke of his pride at the role he played in the system’s creation.

He said: “I’m enormously proud to have played such a big part in the history of the Tyne and Wear Metro. It was an exciting and a hugely challenging project to work on.

“It was something that transformed public transport in our region. I think that I’m one of the few staff left who worked on the original construction project in the late 70s and early 80s.

“My fondest memory was seeing all of that work come to fruition when the first test trains started operating on the system.”

Phil left the Metro in 1984, but returned in 2007 to head up infrastructure maintenance, managing the ‘orange army’ of workers who look after the tracks.

As well as working on the metro, his career has taken him all over the world, including spells in Australia and the Rocky Mountains.

He added: “I’ve really enjoyed my 47 years on the railways, and particularly both of my spells working on the Metro. It’s been a tremendous career. With all of the works I have seen and done over the years it feels like I’ve built the Metro system twice over.

“I’m definitely going to miss the job, but after being on call for over 40 years, and out there on the frontline in all weathers, it’s time for a break.”