The UK is dotted with railway tracks and railways, some long, spanning from one of the country to the other, whilst some are a little shorter. Today, we’re going to focus on a shorter railway lines – The Island Line, which operates on the Isle Of Wight.
The Island Line operates from Ryde Pier Head (at the north of the island) towards Shanklin – a distance just over 8 miles, connecting Ryde Esplanade, Ryde St John’s Road, Smallbrook Junction, Branding, Sandown, Lake along the east side of the island.
However, it requires upgrade work as it prepares to take delivery of new trains.
The line will shut to rail traffic between the 4 January 2021 until 31 March 2021, in some of the largest works to happen on that line since it was electrified in 1967. The work includes the construction of a new passing loop at Brading allowing for a regular 30-minute service, enhancements to the track to improve the quality of the ride, upgrade to platforms to improve access to the Class 484 trains, and the installation of new ticket vending machines at Shanklin, Sandown and Ryde St John’s Road.
To keep passengers moving, buses will run between Shanklin and Ryde Esplanade, with a minibus operating along Ryde Pier to connect passengers with Wightlink ferries.
Currently, the line is using Class 483 trains, made up of two cars – which if you look carefully enough – will remind you of London Underground trains. These trains are 1938 Tube stock which was modified for use on the Island and introduced between 1989 and 1992 and have soldiered on for years – currently 82 years young.
These will be replaced by Class 484 trains. These are themselves derived from London Underground trains – namely the D78 stock, previously used on the District Line.
The trains are being converted by Vivarail. Again, they will be two-car trainsets, with plans to deliver a total of five sets (matching the number of sets being withdrawn). They will offer some interesting passenger experience pieces for those who need them – including Wi-Fi and USB charging.
Inside the Class 484 Train – Image, South Western Railway, via Twitter
These trains are due to enter service during 2021.
Alan Penlington, Customer Experience Director, at South Western Railway said:
“This is a very exciting project for Island Line and will transform travel on the Isle of Wight. Whilst this work will be disruptive, we will keep our customers moving with replacement buses.
“Upon completion of this critical work, we will be introducing the Class 484 trains into service, providing modern spacious interiors, free on-board Wi-Fi, at seat charging points, and dedicated wheelchair spaces.
“The new passing loop at Brading will also allow us to run a service at regular 30-minute intervals, providing better connections to ferries to the mainland.”
Connectivity matters – even on the Island Line
The users of this line primarily are local traffic (residential to the isle), as well as holida makers coming over from the mainland who are travelling by train. The Isle of Wight is connected locally by bus (operated by Wightbus and Southern Vectis. Connections between the Isle of Wight to the UK Mainland include:
- Southsea to Ryde (Hovercraft with Hovertravel)
- Portsmouth to Ryde (Catamaran with Wightlink)
- Portsmouth to Fishbourne (Car Ferry with Wightlink)
- Southampton to West Cowes (Catamaran with Red Funnel Ferries)
- Southampton to East Cowes (Car Ferry with Red Funnel Ferries)
- Lymington to Yarmouth (Car Ferry with Red Funnel Ferries)
These services combined provide the important role of connectivity both within the Isle and to the mainland.
An additional railway – The Isle of Wight Steam Railway – operates between Smallbrook Junction and Wootton (5 and a half miles long). This, plus the 8 and a half mile Island Line is all that remains of a rail network that spanned over 55 miles.
With the promised clock-face service improvements, it could be the chance for the Island Line to grow in a way that hasn’t happened before.
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