Covid-19 has forced a six week delay to the reopening of Island Line, operator South Western Railway (SWR) has announced today (Friday).

A £26 million upgrade is underway and the line had been expected to reopen in the spring.

Replacement buses have been running since the line between Ryde and Shanklin closed, in January.

SWR said its teams are having to work in bubbles, to ensure sites are Covid-secure.  

It has also been hit by the need for team members to self-isolate.

Vivarail, which is supplying the new class 484 trains, has also been affected.

The number of its engineers able to work on a new train at any one time is reduced and the supplier of its traction system is also unable to work at full capacity. 

SWR says other teams are making good progress, despite the challenges.

The extra time will be used to complete additional work on the track. 

Isle of Wight County Press:

Work at Shanklin station, by Photography Rue

Alex Foulds, Major Projects Director at SWR said: “We’re sorry the impact of COVID-19 means we have been forced to reschedule the reopening of the Island Line, but our teams continue to work tirelessly on the project and aim to have the first trains running to a new timetable in mid-May.” 

“Everyone at SWR is committed to delivering a modern railway for the Isle of Wight and we all look forward to welcoming customers onto the new Island Line tracks and trains as we emerge from the shadow of COVID 19 later this year.” 

Adrian Shooter, CEO, Vivarail Ltd said: 

“The complete upgrade of any line is never easy as there are so many variables involved, however undertaking it during a pandemic and with several nationwide lockdowns has obviously caused issues for everyone involved. 

“We’ve seen some fantastic cross industry co-operation to come up with innovative solutions to make up lost time. From running the trains on forklift truck batteries for software testing, through to borrowing a test track in Derby to simulate the conditions on island line, everyone is pulling out all the stops to have the trains ready as soon as possible.” 

A replacement bus services continues to operate.