Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris will visit Brading Station today as the Department for Transport principally funds South Western Railway’s proposals to improve the sustainability of the railway linking Ryde to Shanklin.
This follows a multimillion investment announcement by Network Rail into improvements to renew Ryde Railway Pier where trains connect with ferries to Portsmouth.
The proposals were developed in partnership with key stakeholders on the island, including Isle of Wight Council and Solent Local Enterprise Partnership. They have agreed to jointly contribute £1 million to fund a new passing loop at Brading, helping to deliver an even interval half-hourly service to the pier.
The Department will support the investment into improving the tracks and other infrastructure to support the new trains.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “These trains have diligently served passengers since 1938 – coinciding with the first ever edition of the Beano and the maiden voyage of the record-setting Mallard steam train – so this upgrade is a long overdue boost.
“This investment in the Island Line means more punctual, reliable trains and better connections to ferry services, supporting local residents, businesses and tourism. This underlines our determination to provide passengers across the country with the modern rail network they expect.”
Andy Mellors, Managing Director of South Western Railway, said: “This is a great day for the Isle of Wight. I want to pay tribute to our team at Island Line who have kept the current 1938 stock going for so long and to all of the stakeholders who helped us develop our proposals. I look forward to our continuing partnership as we deliver the next exciting chapter in Island Line’s history.”
Responding to the news Isle of Wight Council leader Dave Stewart said: “I am really pleased to welcome the decision by the Department for Transport to invest millions into Island Line. Today’s announcement follows a long and detailed process involving South Western Railway, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, the Isle of Wight Council and our MP Bob Seely aimed at securing a long term solution to Island Line.
“Islanders can now look forward to new electric trains, major infrastructure improvement and track upgrades, including a passing loop at Brading, enabling the synchronisation of services with the ferries – all of which supports our desire for sustainable and environmental friendly contribution to our Island connectivity.
“This is great news for the Island, great news for South Western Railway and most importantly great news for the users of Island Line. A big thanks to the government for listening and supporting the island once again.”
Gary Jeffries, the Chairman for Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “A renaissance of our coastal communities is a strategic priority for the Solent LEP as we strive to raise productivity levels and spread prosperity across the Solent. Improved digital and transport connectivity is a key enabler of this renaissance , and we are delighted to be working with SWR, the Department for Transport and Isle of Wight Council to unlock funding for the creation of a new passing loop at Brading Station, allowing a more standard 30 minute service.”
David Dickson, Director Network Rail Southern Region, said: “Our plans for the Isle of Wight will see us making a multi-million pound investment to improve the island’s infrastructure rail infrastructure and include refurbishing Ryde Pier. We are looking forward to working with SWR to deliver these improvements and to ensuring that together we continue to provide a train service for passengers for years to come.”
Island Line is restricted in terms of the size of units that can run on it and so SWR has chosen Vivarail’s Class 484 trains. These totally refurbished former London Underground trains will provide more capacity, better accessibility, passenger information systems and wi-fi. The two carriage trains will also have connecting gangways allowing guards to move freely throughout the whole train, collecting revenue and providing passenger assistance.
Vivarail CEO Adrian Shooter said: “It is a great privilege for Vivarail to be part of the wholesale upgrade of the Island Line. Vivarail will be building 3rd rail trains to make best use of Island Line’s electrified track , this follows on from our diesel units for West Midlands Railway and battery/diesel trains for Transport for Wales – and is an example of how flexible the train is. I look forward to taking the first ride and enjoying the picturesque views of the Isle of Wight from the comfort of the new trains.”
The first train is expected to arrive on test in early summer 2020, with track improvement works due to take place over the winter of that year.
The proposals submitted to the DfT followed an initial stakeholder consultation back in the autumn of 2017. Feedback from that consultation was then considered by the Island Forum, made of stakeholders including: IOW Commuity Rail Partnership, IOW Steam Railway, the IOW Bus and Rail Users Group, Southern Vectis, KILF, Wightlink and Hovertravel, with detailed proposals reported back to a steering group.
Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely said: “This is great news for the Isle of Wight. With the support of local campaign groups, I have relentlessly made the case for securing the future of Island Line, not just as part of my constituency’s public transport provision but also as part of the National Rail Network. I am grateful to my colleagues in Government for supporting our local train service, and particularly to the Rail Minister for visiting the Island today to make this announcement with SWR.
“This represents the first significant upgrade to the route for over 50 years, and I look forward to liaising with SWR, Network Rail and the DfT to ensure that the benefits are delivered in a timely manner, with minimal disruption. Island Line serves residents, commuters, visitors and students on a daily basis – and I know how much these rail users will welcome this overdue announcement.”