THE FUTURE of the Isle of Wight's railway has been secured by a £26 million investment.
The money, overwhelmingly funded by the Department for Transport, will see more modern trains, improvements to the track and a new passing loop at Brading which will help deliver a half-hourly service to the pier and cross-Solent routes.
The current 1938 rolling stock will be replaced by fully refurbished former London Underground trains providing more capacity, better accessibility, passenger information systems and wi-fi. The trains will continue to make use of the third (electric) rail, with the first carriages expected to arrive on test in early summer 2020. Track improvement works will follow during the winter.
The news follows the announcement earlier this year by Network Rail to invest millions of pounds into Ryde Railway Pier where Island trains connect with foot passenger services to Portsmouth.

The new trains:

The refurbished trains will be more modern and accessible, and a more comfortable ride is promised thanks to upgrades to the worst sections of track.

Read more: County Press gets the reaction.

The trains will replace the current Class 483 fleet, which were originally built for the London Underground in 1938, and have been carrying passengers on the Island Line since 1989.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: "That means an incredible 81 years of service for some of the oldest trains on our network, but they cannot be kept going forever.

"We have been focused on ensuring local partners have had the chance to put forward their plans for a more sustainable Island Line. South Western Railway have delivered on that.

"The distinctive style of the underground will remain, but these totally refurbished trains will be more modern and accessible for passengers, with seat charging points and on-board WiFi.

"Alongside upgrades that SWR will be carrying out to some of the worst sections of the track, passengers will benefit from a much more comfortable journey than they experience today.

"On board, the guard will now be able to walk through the carriages, and new ticket vending machines at Shanklin, Sandown and Ryde St Johns Road mean buying a ticket is faster and easier.

"A new passing loop at Brading will also allow SWR to operate an even 30-minute service, synchronising train times with connections at Ryde.

"For passengers, that all means more comfortable and reliable journeys, with better connections for thousands of local people and the tourists who visit the Island.

"But it is not just rail getting a shot in the arm. We are investing millions to help transform travel across the Island — to support the economy and protect our environment.

"More than £1.3m has been invested into cleaner, greener cycling, bus and walking schemes.

"Since 2017, this has reduced private car travel by the equivalent of more than 48,000kms, cutting over six tonnes of carbon emissions.

"We’ve also offered funding to a range of organisations, including new bike cycle schemes in Shanklin, providing tourists with electric bikes for sight-seeing and producing a Slow Travel Guide – all focused on taking even more traffic off our roads and helping people enjoy the Island to its fullest.

"This is all part of changing the way people travel, focused on implementing more reliable, green and comfortable journeys."

Bob Seely welcomes news: 

MP Bob Seely has welcomed today’s announcement by rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris.
Mr Seely said: “When I became the Island’s MP, I pledged to make sure the Island was listened to by Whitehall.
“This is really great news for the Island and long over-due. With the support of local campaign groups, I have relentlessly made the case for securing the future of Island Line.
“I am pleased that yet again, the government will be investing in the Isle of Wight, and I thank the rail minister for visiting the Island today to make this announcement with South Western Railway.
“This represents the first significant upgrade to the route for over 50 years, since electrification in 1967, and I look forward to liaising with SWR, Network Rail and the Department for Transport to ensure 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 investment.
“I am also pleased that a new passing loop will be introduced at Brading. This will improve connectivity with cross-Solent sailings at peak times, and complements the allocated funding from Network Rail to renew Ryde Railway Pier.
“I support the ambitions for steam trains to return to Ryde St Johns, and I will continue to work with the award-winning Isle of Wight Steam Railway to see how their practical proposals to achieve this can be delivered. 
"I also support viability schemes to investigate the possibility of getting the Island line extended.”
Cllr Chris Quirk, a founding member of the Keep Island Line in the Franchise (KILF) Campaign, said: “We are delighted with this outcome. Our sole objective has always been to secure Island Line’s future within the wider franchise model. 
“Today’s announcement is 'mission accomplished' for KILF. 
"The input of Bob Seely has been crucial. He has repeatedly made the case for Island Line in both Westminster and Whitehall, making clear that anything less than a comprehensive upgrade would be unacceptable. 
"My colleagues on the Isle of Wight Council have also played a key role, and I am grateful for their efforts in negotiations.
“For too many years, successive governments have ‘kicked the can down the road’ with Island Line – putting it in the “too difficult” box and leaving the Island with sub-standard rolling stock. 
"Today we can finally be confident that our much-loved local train service will have a long and sustainable future.”

Wightlink welcomes news

Wightlink has welcomed today’s news of a £26 million government investment in Island Line.

The investment will see the creation of a passing loop allowing the more modern trains that will enter service as part of the investment to run at half-hourly intervals. This will improve connectivity with Wightlink’s FastCat service between Ryde Pier Head and Portsmouth Harbour.

Wightlink chief executive Keith Greenfield said: “This investment will bring about a significant improvement to Island Line and therefore transport on and off the Island.

"As the Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said today, the money will mean better, more reliable trains and a timetable that connects better with our ferry services. That is great news for travellers.

“Today’s announcement marks the culmination of much hard work by many people and organisations including South Western Railway, the Isle of Wight Council and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as well as Island MP Bob Seely.

“Wightlink will continue to work with our partners to ensure our services are part of a high quality and sustainable integrated transport network to and from the Island.”

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