Christopher Garnett’s much anticipated report on the future of Island Line has been released today (Friday).
The transport expert was appointed by the Isle of Wight Council just short of four months ago to help inform the Island’s collective response to the Department for Transport consultation (which closes on 9th February) on the future of Island Line as part of the next south western rail franchise.
Options for future of Island Line
Christopher Garnett worked free of charge on the project which saw him consult with a wide variety of stakeholders.
His ‘options report’ delivered to the council on Thursday will now inform their consultation response to the DfT.
Highlights from the report found:
- Island Line a vital transport service
- Plays a very important social and transport role
- DfT say they have no wish to close the line
- IWC have no expertise, money or desire to run the line
- More cost effective solution needs to be found
- Rolling stock needs investment
- Track in poor condition
- Even more modern Underground stock would not reduce costs
- New stock not available until 2027
- Newer stock unlikely to fit through tunnel in Ryde
- Concerns over voltage drops on line
- Full condition survey needed
Alternative solution: A tramway
The report goes on to explore an alternative to the current heavy rail system, suggesting a tram system, as previously touted by Isle of Wight Conservative MP, Andrew Turner’s, transport advisor Nick Finney, who the CP claim introduced Christopher Garnett to the IWC.
- Cheaper alternative to convert to tram system
- Initial investment needed, but long-term operating savings
- 30 minute service, 15 min service at peak times
- The network could be extended
- Street-running trams could also be possible
- New passing loop near Brading
- Simpler signalling, reducing further costs
- Second hand trams available (approx 10 would be needed)
- Would require new platform at Esplanade to load from both sides – direct route to Hover terminal
Steam Railway would benefit
There would be benefits for the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (IWSR) too.
- IWSR could be given track between Smallbrook and Ryde St John’s
- IWSR offered technical and engineering support in constructing a new passing loop
- Engineering track supplies (currently at Sandown depot) would move to Havenstreet
- Land at Sandown depot could be sold for housing development
The report does not have definitive answers to all the current challenges of Island Line, but the suggested alternative would need to comply with the following.
- Line would be franchised by DfT
- Could be operated by train operator through tram subsidy
- Subject to same rules on performance and protection
- Island Line to stay part of network for ticketing, revenue allocation and other relevant services
“The next operator will be required to work with the council, community and stakeholders to develop plans to turn the Island Line, which serves the Isle of Wight, into a separate and self-sustaining business during the life of the next franchise.”
‘Operator of last resort’
The council say they are,
“Seeking assurance from the government to guarantee that the rule of ‘operator of last resort’ should the local operator fail be applied to the Island Line should it be removed from the South Western franchise.
“Assurances that any costs in the event of failure, would not be born locally and that it would not become the responsibility of the Isle of Wight Council, but instead the government as per any other element of the national network to pick up the cost.”
Cllr Jonathan Bacon, Leader of the Isle of Wight Council, said:
“I would like to thank Christopher Garnett for his generous assistance in bringing together so many local residents with a vested interest in the successful future of Island Line in such a constructive way.
“It seems that we are all in general agreement; Island Line must remain, and that it might benefit from local management, which will provide better local opportunities for promotion and control, to enable the line to flourish and support the local economy.
“It is also essential that government gives us cast iron assurances that Island Line remains part of the nation rail network for timetabling and ticketing and has the same guarantees in relation to infrastructure as the rest of the network.”
Christopher Garnett, said:
“I just wanted to thank all the people and organisations who took part in this investigation; for their very open approach and real desire to get a really good outcome for the Isle of Wight.”
To read the report in full see below. Click on the full screen icon to see larger version.
Article edit 10.48am
Added comment from Cllr Bacon and Christopher Garnett.