Metro Futures: Co-designing the future of Tyne and Wear Metro

Design Futures

Collaborators Nexus


We worked with 4,000 people to help inform the design of the new Tyne and Wear Metro trains that are currently being built to replace the system’s ageing fleet.


A multi-channel programme of intergenerational public engagement around the future of the Metro.


Research generated through Metro Futures informed a successful £362m bid to the Department for Transport for a fleet of new Metro trains.

Around 4,000 people helped design the new Tyne and Wear Metro trains that are currently being built to replace the system’s ageing fleet. Metro Futures, a project by Nexus included a ground-breaking public consultation by Newcastle University that used a variety of digital tools and creative activities to talk with around 4,000 people about what they wanted from their trains.

The public’s opinions formed the heart of the specification which bidders were challenged to meet.

The new trains, based on the ideas and suggestions of more than 3,000 passengers, will cut Metro’s high voltage power consumption by 30% while providing Metro’s 36 million passengers with modern features including Wi-Fi, charging points, air conditioning and a step-change in accessibility.

Metro Futures adopted a ‘co-design’ approach, which went beyond passengers ‘having their say’ to actively involving hundreds of people in the design of new trains.

Rather than relying on methods such as questionnaires and surveys, Metro Futures used pop up Labs in shopping centres and busy public spaces across the North East, co-design workshops with co-researchers (members of the public), and tools such as the Open Lab built JigsAudio - a consultation method that uses talking and drawing.

Metro Futures also sought the views of the youngest Metro passengers. Working with seven schools and colleges, the project invited students from across Tyne and Wear to put forward their designs for future Metro trains and welcoming over 60 schoolchildren to sit in the driver’s cab of a real Metro train for an afternoon.


  • On 28th January 2020, Nexus announced its chosen manufacturer of 42 new Metro trains, all of which will be informed by feedback gathered through the Metro Futures project.
  • A number of the design ideas gathered through the project will be taken through to the final designs for the new trains, including Wi-Fi availability, charging points, air conditioning, better accessibility for wheelchair passengers and those with children’s buggies.
  • Metro Futures involved running stakeholder events, including 7 ‘pop up lab’ events and 4 co-design workshops. A team of 20 co-designers thought carefully about every aspect of new trains, from accessibility and reliability to comfort and the arrangement of seating.


Metro Futures: Experience-Centred Co-Design at Scale

  1. Bowen Simon
  2. Wright Peter
  3. Wilson Alexander
  4. Dow Andy
  5. Bartindale Tom
  6. Anderson Rob

2020Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI ’20