GOVERNMENT rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris writes about the new trains for the Isle of Wight, announced today.


It takes something rather special to be considered ‘historic’ on the Isle of Wight.

From Neolithic tombs at Mottistone to dinosaur footprints at Hanover Point, the Norman castle at Carisbrooke to the legendary Hendrix-led festival of 1970, only spectacular sights and events impress people here.

But I’d make the case that the arrival of a new fleet of trains on the Island Line can rightly be considered historic.

Originally built for the London Underground in 1938, the current Class 483 fleet was shipped across on the ferry to Fishbourne and has been carrying passengers on the Island Line since 1989.

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 this 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 48,000 kilometres, cutting over 6 tonnes of carbon emissions.

We’ve also offered funding to a range of organisations, including 30 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 on this Island, focused on implementing more reliable, green and comfortable journeys.

It’s a modern vision, but also a historic step forward.

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