Isle of Wight MP’s call for feasibility studies funding to reopen former train lines

The Isle of Wight MP asked whether they’d be money available for feasibility studies to assess the costs and benefits of opening up former Isle of Wight branch lines closed in the 1960s.

Model of Ventnor station at Ventnor Heritage Centre

During the general election campaign, Bob Seely – the now Isle of Wight Conservative MP – spoke often about his desire to see the former train line between Shanklin and Ventnor re-opened.

With today’s news that Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, is keen to identify new rail projects to “unlock economic growth and housing development across the country”, it was no surprise to hear Bob Seely raise a question in Parliament.

Funding for feasilibility study
Bob asked,

“Is my right honourable friend aware that on the Isle of Wight there may be interest in extending Island Line to the beautiful seaside town of Ventnor and the county town of Newport. The latter made possible in part due to the foresight of the isle of wight steam railway in securing track in decades past.

“Will there be money available for feasibility studies to assess the costs and benefits of opening up for economic regeneration purposes former branch lines which were closed in the 1960s?”

Minister to explain process
Chris Grayling replied,

“Madam speaker, we will be publishing the New Year a new process for evaluating and moving into development of new projects and I’ll be very happy to talk to my honourable friend about the Isle of Wight and how that process will work and he can get his project into consideration.”

Is it even possible?
Many gardens along the Shanklin to Ventnor line have now been extended over the old track and Southern Water own the tunnel which comes out on the Ventnor Industrial Estate.

The Ventnor railway tunnel project was completed in 1866, just a year after the population of the town was recorded as 5,000 (up from 350 in just 30 years).

In 1938, whilst in exile from Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie arrived in Ventnor by train.

The station closed in April 1966 and the track was lifted by 1970.

MP responds
Speaking after the session, Bob said,

“I am delighted that SWR accepted my suggestion and put in a question in the consultation about extending the line. I am talking now to transport and rail stakeholders on the Island about whether they would support extending the Island Line.

“I believe there is potentially a strong case to extend the railway to Newport, to link the Island’s two biggest towns and help ease traffic congestion, and also to link Ryde with Ventnor, supporting Ventnor’s regeneration.

“However, both possibilities are not without difficulty.

“The route to Newport would require greater integration with the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, and I recognise that their principal objective is to maintain a popular heritage route for visitors. However, the Steam Railway have long-term aspirations to extend both into Ryde St Johns and closer to Newport, so there is certainly the potential for closer working and the extension of existing lines, subject to the current services provided by both Island Line and the Steam Railway continuing, as a minimum.

“Regarding Ventnor, getting the train back into the town would help the town and help connect it better with the east of the Island. However, there will be issues about potential routes through or around Wroxall, as well as access to the tunnel.

“The important thing is that, if there is a desire to see the routes extended, we should look to secure a feasibility study to offer an up-to-date assessment of the potential costs and opportunities of either extension.

“I have already made my ambitions for Island Line clear to the operators, South Western Railway, and to the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in several meetings and I have had with them.”

Article edit
Comment from Bob Seely added (7.50pm)

Wednesday, 29th November, 2017 5:09pm



Filed under: Island-wide, Isle of Wight News, Top story, Train

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21 Comments on "Isle of Wight MP’s call for feasibility studies funding to reopen former train lines"

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Not so Liam. Reversing the premature Beeching cuts of the 1960’s is currently in vogue. Funding is already confirmed for phase 2 of the former Varsity Line between Oxford and Cambridge and several other mainland lines may reopen to boost housebuilding. I regularly travelled to the Island from Clapham Junction in the 1950’s on a day return when thousands packed into the trains to Ventnor and Shanklin… Read more »

Quite right,there are various lines across the country which have been named as possibillities but there seems to be no mention of the Island. Whilst a nice idea, the practicalities of such a project on the Island are zero. It was Marples who favoured roads over trains; I wonder why that was? Politicians, don’t you just love them.

Shanklin – Ventnor: Well, for starters, if you want to follow the old route you’d have to replace the Landguard Road bridge; divert the access road into Lower Hyde and rebuild the embankment; replace or at least provide some form of maintenance access to the trunk sewer laid under the route as part of the Seaclean Wight project; relocate industrial premises at Wroxall, including Travis Perkins; find… Read more »

Well done to Mr Seely. This would be great and even if it doesn’t come to succeed he is at least trying to do some good things for the island. He is also making regular cases for the fact the island is a special place.

Mr. Seeley understands the need to engage with his constituents and to let them know what he is doing. Apart from the odd mistake, his publicity team seem to be doing a decent job. I’m sure he realises that the line to Ventnor is an impossibility but if he doesn’t join in the current debate for reopening lines there will be many asking why not. Maybe by… Read more »

I wonder why there were down votes for this comment. Would these individuals rather our MP did nothing. It’s interesting that the down voters did not post a reply to justify their votes.

Billy Builder

iowdave, I suspect that down comments were posted because Mr Seely is obviously kite flying with an issue that he knows has absolutely no chance of ever getting off the ground. He should be concentrating on battles that can be won on the Island rather than Tory politicing.

Yup, kite flying, that’s pretty much what is going on here. There is no chance that this will ever happen. Far too many obstacles to overcome before the actual engineering can even begin. There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that the property owners along the route, both those who will lose physical properties and business, and those whose property will be impacted by the railway running… Read more »

Flying pigs to some but interesting possibilities to the more open-minded.
I feel quite sure that the Honorable Member is more than capable of multi-tasking – after all that’s his job!


Nice idea but never, ever, going to happen.

Too much of the old railway infrastructure has been torn up, torn down, flattened or built over.

It would cost an absolute fortune in legal costs in fighting those whose properties and businesses will need to be demolished before any real work could start.


Bob ought to know by now that there is no money to fund feasibility studies

Mark L Francis

To get from Shanklin to Ventnor by rail the difficulty is going to be in re-opening the tunnel from Wroxall (or going via Newport).
How much would that cost?

Mark L Francis

Cowes to Newport might be more feasible.

You are kidding, right? At the Cowes end the old track, now the Cowes-Newport Cycle Track, ends at Arctic Road, a mile from the Red Jet terminal and the town centre. There is absolutely no way through (look on Google maps) and nowhere to build a station. At the Newport end, the track ends by the NatWest building on Manners way, 2/3 of a mile from the… Read more »
Steve Goodman
(Copied CP comment)”The essential carriageway link to East and West Cowes could be reopened if it was part of ambitious government plans to restore the route recently lost to the cutting of the floating bridge service after a century and a half. Instead, Transport secretary Chris Grayling said reinstating rail services axed in the 1960s could be good (but didn’t say how much money for that would… Read more »

Where does our esteemed Member find the time to chase all these flying pigs? Surely his hands are more than full getting IW designated as an Opportunity Area (see last week’s Budget), securing the funds an island-based health service needs and, if he gets a quiet moment, attending IW Council meetings. No?


Sorry Bob, but this was nothing but a distraction by Grayling to hide the failure of *yet another* East Coast Mainline franchise – nothing new has been proposed.

In reality the economics of Island Line make the case for any extension inconceivable.

The 2001 feasibility study conclusion for extending the line to Ventnor is actually very positive. Of course there are problems to be overcome. Looking at the big picture, Tourism is the Island’s main industry. This is ultimately a lot more than Reopening the rail route to Ventnor, a picturesque seaside town set in an area of outstanding beauty and noted for its own microclimate. Linking it every… Read more »
Steve Goodman
“Could” happen – if more of Mrs May’s (DUP/ Brexit/ HS2) magic money trees turn up in austerity land, perhaps. There are sound economic and environmental reasons for improvements including investing in restoring some axed rail routes (and extending/ creating some new ones), but little justification for the present foolishness including the enormously expensive, damaging, and divisive HS2 vanity project. As always, plenty of free information and… Read more »

That’s a track now used by hundreds of people on foot, bicycle and horse. Probably more than ever used it in the days of steam. The world has moved on.


Moved on to the extent that our roads are so congested that we need to look at other forms of transport. This idea at least deserves looking into.