I was pleased to read the letters from Richard Ferraro and Adrian Searle (County Press print edition, June 12), about the plans to explore the re-opening of old railway lines on the Island.

Both of your correspondents make a number of worthwhile suggestions – and highlight several challenges – in relation to these ambitions for future railway provision. It is right that these issues are considered in full.

Mr Ferraro is absolutely spot on in saying that the stimulus to the regeneration of towns connected by the proposed railway links will be considerable. The prospect of having a rail connection into Newport Harbour would mean a non-road based public transport connection all the way from London Waterloo to our county town.

This could be transformational, as would the link to Ventnor – and I’m pleased that Mr Ferraro has also highlighted the potential for the latter to be a national centre for arts, something which I have long advocated.

I would urge Mr Ferraro to get in touch with me to share the plans he has developed for the options for the industrial estate in Upper Ventnor, where the re-opened railway would terminate. His ideas for Wroxall are also welcome.

It is also helpful that Mr Searle has highlighted some of the issues that would need addressing if our ambitions are to be realised, including the interface with the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (IWSR). Understandably the latter’s first priority is to ensure the continued operation of their award-winning and popular heritage attraction.

That is why I am keen to continue progressing their plans to return steam trains to Ryde St John's. This is the first step towards linking Ryde and Newport directly, and I am pleased that the IWSR is willing to explore options as the feasibility work gets underway.

As Mr Searle says, the funding announced by the government is the best chance we have of securing enhanced route connectivity whilst also preserving the historical integrity of our magnificent steam railway.

Working with the council and other local stakeholders, we will do all we can to deliver both objectives.