Isle of Wight gets new trains and railway upgrade
Image credit: Vivarail
Britain’s oldest trains in regular passenger operation are to be replaced as part of a £26m railway upgrade on the Isle of Wight that will also see infrastructure investment to help facilitate an improved service.
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris visited the island to announce funding for South Western Railway’s proposals to improve the sustainability of the Island Line linking Ryde to Shanklin.
The present trains are former London Underground (LU) 1938 stock, making them over 80 years old. They have been running on the Island Line since 1989-90.
A tunnel and bridge on the 8.5-mile line limit the size of units that can run on it, so SWR has chosen Vivarail’s Class 484 trains, which use the bodyshells of LU 1980 stock with rebuilt bogies and new interiors. They 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.
At the same time, Network Rail will make a multi-million-pound investment to improve the island’s railway infrastructure, including refurbishment of 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 £1m to fund a new passing loop at Brading, helping to deliver an even-interval half-hourly service to the pier, synchronised with the ferries.
The Department for Transport will support the investment in improving the tracks and other infrastructure for the new trains.
Andy Mellors, managing director of South Western Railway, commented: “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.”
Vivarail CEO Adrian Shooter added: “It is a great privilege for Vivarail to be part of the wholesale upgrade of the Island Line. Vivarail will be building third-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 Isle of Wight is a popular holiday destination situated a short distance from England’s south coast. The railway line, with its connection to the Portsmouth ferry, is used regularly by residents, commuters, visitors and students.
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