Travelling to Paris (mostly) in Style – Part 1: Leaving the North East

The first leg of my summer holiday journey has been from Newcastle to Paris via London Heathrow with British Airways. After a slow start due to engineering works on the Tyne & Wear Metro requiring a poorly-organised bus replacement from South Gosforth, the journey has been relaxing & uneventful.

While I understand that the modernisation of the Metro is much-needed, the bus replacement service put on by the T&W Metro was disappointing. It’s never enjoyable having to decamp onto a bus for rail engineering works, but Metro seemed not to have given any consideration to customer service, despite this being a regular occurrence over the past few years. The trains and platform displays still showed trains as going to the airport (although a secondary message on the screen mentioned bus service replacement). A group of German passengers clearly hadn’t got the message as they remained on the train when we terminated at South Gosforth. If it had been a National Rail disruption, my experience is that it would have been much better publicised and organised. A member of Metro staff on the platform directed passengers to the bus stop but there was little guidance after that. When the bus turned up (an Arriva bus as that company shares Deutsche Bahn parentage with Metro) it had little or no luggage space, which is rather surprising given that it was on a route to the Airport with passengers encumbered with lots of luggage. The bus then proceeded to serve every single of the Metro stops to the Airport. Again, there didn’t seem to be much signage or Metro presence and some bus stops were several hundred metres from the Metro stop – hardly suitable for any mobility impaired.

It was a slow and tortuous route to the Airport through various northern Newcastle housing estates. As we got further from the city, however, we passed some huge modern houses with elaborate porticos and even porte cocheres in some cases. Some really looked quite ludicrous!

On arrival at the Airport, check-in was quick and easy – though this was mainly due to being able to fast track as a frequent flyer. The departures lounge is now reached by a new, tortuous route through Duty Free but the retail & catering units are much better than they were before the terminal refurbishment.

The BA lounge at Newcastle was fairly quiet but the gate lounge was full when the flight was called. To speed up turnaround, the aircraft was boarded by the air bridge and also by steps from the apron to the rear passenger doors. As a result, take-off was almost on time.

We took off towards the west and flew over Corbridge as we turned south. The A69’s origins as a Roman road along Hadrian’s Wall were clearly evident. Cloud cover soon made it difficult to see much else as we headed south towards Heathrow.

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