This in from Keep Island Line in Franchise (KILF) campaign groupo. In their own words. Ed
The Keep Island Line in the Franchise (KILF) Campaign is cautiously welcoming parts of the
announcement made today (Friday) by the Department for Transport (DfT) on the future of Island Line train service, while also expressing strong concerns about the Government’s singling out of the route for possible exclusion from the next regional franchise.
In a statement issued to local media – and in an article by Rail Minister Claire Perry published in the Isle of Wight County Press – the DfT has set out its preliminary proposals for Island Line ahead of a formal consultation later this year.
Concerned at some apparent inconsistencies
KILF has carefully considered the content of both the statement and the article, and is grateful to the DfT for setting out its position at this time. However the Campaign Group is concerned at some apparent inconsistencies in the Government’s position, and also how the Island could end up being disadvantaged when compared to other parts of the franchise area.
Speaking in response to the DfT statement, KILF Steering Group member David Pugh said:
“We welcome the Government’s proposal that Network Rail should take on the full cost of maintaining the line’s infrastructure, including the track, pier and stations. This would be a hugely positive step forward, putting Island Line on an equitable footing with the rest of the rail network, and in doing so resolving the unique anomaly of this burden sitting with the franchisee.
“However while the DfT see this as a stepping stone to exploring alternative operational models, we consider that such a regularisation of maintenance arrangements strengthens the case for Island Line remaining as a full, integral part of a regional franchise. Such a change would mean that Island Line can be treated the same as other small rural routes in the franchise area, benefitting from the support of a wider operation.”
Service will be “starved of investment” without franchise
Chris Quirk added:
“While we agree with the DfT that the financial position of the service should be improved, we strongly believe that this can be best achieved within the efficiencies of a wider franchise, throughout the entirety of the next franchise period. A professionally-run regional franchise would be able to draw on significant economies of scale and wide-ranging expertise that would simply be impossible for a social enterprise or a separately-run business to match.
“Furthermore we consider that it would be entirely appropriate for the Government to incentivise (and obligate) the next franchisee (the Train Operating Company) to make the necessary capital investment as part of a longterm commitment to Island Line throughout the next franchise period. Without such a franchise-long requirement, we believe the service would continue to be starved of investment.”
Why is Island Line singled out?
Stewart Blackmore added:
“It is unclear why the Government are proposing that the Island should be singled out in this way. If small rural routes in Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset continue to benefit from the support of a wider franchise, why shouldn’t our local service have the same? Our geographical separation from the mainland should not be used as an excuse to treat us differently. We are part of the National Rail Network, and this should be complemented by the benefits of the wider franchise model for the duration of the next operating period.
“We need to understand from the DfT whether the references to a social enterprise model and a separate / selfsustaining business are being proposed entirely of their own initiative, or instead as a result of what has been advocated to them by our local representatives.
“The Island deserves clarity on these matters – and both the DfT and Andrew Turner need to explain why our community is being uniquely singled out for such an untested alternative, while other local rail services would retain the backing of a wider franchise.
“KILF will be redoubling its efforts over the coming weeks and months to ensure a clear message is communicated to the DfT about how Island Line must remain in the franchise for the next operating period, with investment being secured as part of this.”