Sunday 29th May 2022
I know it’s not a mid-size town with a distinct geographic hinterland but I struggled to find a J to match my normal AtoZ criteria; so Jarrow it is.
Famous of course for the 1936 Jarrow Crusade which saw 200 men march to Westminster protesting at high levels of unemployment and poverty following the closure of the town’s shipbuilding yard.
In those days Jarrow was part of County Durham but now it falls administratively under South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough within the former Tyne & Wear region with transport issues now falling within the responsibilities of the North East Combined Authority.
Unlike my previous visits to Andover, Bracknell, Carlisle, Durham, Evesham, Folkestone, Grantham, Harrogate and Inverness, Jarrow hasn’t had a distinct boundary delineating its identity for many years being part of the urban sprawl stretching from Newcastle through Gateshead and eastwards to South Shields and even south to Sunderland.
As a southerner writing this I realise I may upset a few Geordies but to me Jarrow is just one of a number of suburbs in the wider Tyne & Wear conurbation. It’s population at 27,500 is roughly a similar size to Evesham I visited a few weeks ago but there the similarity ends.
While Jarrow doesn’t have a National Rail station it does have a station on the Tyne & Wear Metro on the line to South Shields although it’s not one of the high profile architecturally renowned buildings that can be found north of the Tyne.
In fact it’s a very basic affair with two platforms where the track expands from one of its single track sections to form a passing place although there is also a by-pass piece of track on the far side of the station which can be used by freight trains to and from the nearby Shell Mex oil depot.
Metro trains run every 12 minutes during the daytime (15 minutes at weekends) with a 19 minute journey time to Newcastle via Gateshead and 10 minutes to the terminus at South Shields. A day ticket costing £4.70 covers journeys from Jarrow into Gateshead and Newcastle.
There’s a five bay bus station adjacent to the rather non-descript access to the Metro station making for convenient interchange – provided you’re ok with stairs.
There is a long ramp which takes you up to the A185 Albert Road making for a very long way round to the bus station by this route.
It’s a very basic bus station affair with two drive through lanes and a bus shelter at each of the five bays.
Each shelter has bench type individual seats and a static departure listing as well as a real time display although one wasn’t working on my visit.
There’s also a poster showing which service number and bay is used alongside an alphabetical listing of destinations served from the bus station.
Jarrow’s economy has certainly improved since the dark days of the 1930s but almost a century later there are still many challenges.
The Viking Centre is just a short walk through a pedestrian subway from the bus station and a look around the shopping mall soon indicates all is not well. Many retail units are closed or vacant and only a large Morrisons shows much sign of life with its adjacent 400 space free to use car park.
Otherwise it was Home Bargains, B&M Home Store, Wilko, vape shops, nail bars, hair salons and Ladbrokes which caught my eye with Cash Converters appearing to be the ‘anchor store’.
The Viking Centre’s website extols it as a “vibrant, friendly shopping destination … in the heart of Jarrow” so I was surprised to see metallic gates which I assume are lowered when the shops are shut to prevent anti-social behaviour.
Jarrow’s bus network is mainly in the hands of Go North East (GNE) which operates four routes with Stagecoach North East operating a fifth. And that’s it. Other routes pass through residential areas to the south of the town centre but don’t come into Jarrow itself.
Joy of joys Go North East have a very helpful network map which gives passengers a good idea of where its bus routes go, although has too small a scale to be able to show road names..
The most frequent service is GNE’s 15 minutely route 27 providing a trunk route between Newcastle, Gateshead, Jarrow and South Shields with an end to end journey time of 76 minutes.
It’s branded as “Crusader” and has smartly turned out Wright Gemini bodied Volvo B9TLs which belie their 11 years age.
I took a ride in both directions on this route from Jarrow. It provides the quickest journey of the four routes between Jarrow and South Shields linking the two places in just 19 minutes mainly by following a direct easterly trajectory.
The journey into Gateshead and Newcastle is much longer at 50 minutes and is not so direct in its effort to serve the primary roads in adjacent Hebbern – at one point we were heading back due east towards Jarrow such is the route’s wigglyness.
But it’s doing what it needs to do as buses were proving busy not least my journey at 14:42 from Jarrow which copped two secondary school’s turning out on route as well as four-way temporary traffic lights adding to the traffic mayhem leaving us struggling to keep to time being 10 minutes down at Heworth Interchange where I decamped to the Metro to ensure my connection with a homebound LNER train at Newcastle station wasn’t missed.
GNE’s route 26 runs half hourly and also links Jarrow with South Shields but takes a more southerly route before heading north resulting in a 41 minute journey time.
West of Jarrow buses continue to the residential area of Lukes Lane a journey time of 22 minutes.
This route is mainly operated by double deck buses in generic GNE fleet livery but I saw the odd single decker on the route too. Loadings were good with mid to high teens headcount on most journeys.
The two other half hourly GNE routes serving Jarrow bus station are the inter-worked routes 5 and 9 with the former also going to South Shields and the latter to Sunderland.
It’s a 42 minute ride to Sunderland on the 9 and an hour to South Shields on the 5 mainly because the route takes in more residential areas including up a dead-end-and-back-down-again road and a circuit of Fellgate.
I had a ride on the bus as far as Fellgate with a good load of 18 passengers out and half a dozen coming back.
Fellgate seemed a pleasant area – I’m surprised it hasn’t been called Fellgate Garden City.
Buses I saw arriving and leaving the bus station on both routes had decent numbers on board.
Finally there’s Stagecoach’s route 10/11 which provide yet another route variant between Jarrow and South Shields taking 64 minutes as well as a quick link from Jarrow through the Tyne Tunnel to North Shields in just 15 minutes.
The Combined Authority, Nexus, look after bus stops, timetable cases and bus shelters and they seemed to do a good job. Everything seemed to be up to date and shelters were in a good condition.
Although some were somewhat basic in amenities.
Numbers of passengers travelling looked fairly healthy in both directions indicating all these routes perform useful links to nearby residential areas as well as longer distant destinations but I suspect much of the longer journeying passengers for Newcastle, Gateshead and South Shields opt for the Metro with its quicker journey times, greater frequencies and subsidised ticket prices. It’s not easy running buses on a commercial basis with competition like that.
Jarrow, wherever the boundaries of the town lie, comes over as an area well served by both bus and Metro and it’s probably the most friendliest ‘mid-size town’ I’ve been to yet, and that’s Geordies for you.
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