David Pugh shares this latest news from KILF. Ed
Last week the Keep Island Line in Franchise campaign emailed all candidates standing for 2017 Isle of Wight council election in the wards on the Island Line route (Ryde through to Shanklin, along with Wroxall and Ventnor, given the rail / bus link). Contact was made either directly or through the candidate’s party.
We asked these candidates to declare their position on Island Line, so that there can be transparency as to what stance they will take post-election, if voted in on 4th May. The background to this was set out in an email to the candidates, which can be found here.
Option to remove franchise
Essentially, even though the next South Western Rail Franchise has been awarded to First Group MTR – who have proposals to invest in Island Line – there remains an option in the new franchise agreement for the Secretary of State to transfer the route to a “Replacement Island Line Operator”, i.e. remove it from the security of wider franchise, which we believe would be disastrous for the service’s long-term viability.
The role of the Isle of Wight Council (as a named “stakeholder”) will be crucial in making the case to the Department for Transport (DfT) that the option to remove Island Line from the wider franchise is not invoked, and instead urging the Government to support First Group MTR’s proposals for investment, which will secure its long-term viability and future in the wider franchise.
At the point of this initial publishing, we have received responses from 44 out of 71 nominated candidates, including at least one from every ward. We will add updates with further responses as and when they are received.
We asked the candidates whether, if elected, they will:
1) Advocate Island Line being retained in the wider South Western Rail Franchise, and as part of the national rail network.
2) Urge the IW Council’s post-election leadership to make representations to the DfT in support of this objective, including asking the Government to support First Group MTR’s plans for much-needed investment in Island Line, thereby securing its future in the wider franchise.
Some candidates responded by explicitly addressing these two questions, whereas others just gave short responses in support of Island Line more generally. It is up to voters to decide how to interpret these responses, and whether to seek further clarification from the candidates directly.
From our perspective, we are particularly keen to receive reassurances from candidates that, if elected, they will not waiver from supporting Island Line’s longer-term future in the wider franchise – as we fear there will be post-election efforts (through the forthcoming report of the Transport Infrastructure Taskforce) to persuade councillors to back an option that sits outside of the franchise.
Important issue in General Election too
We remain concerned that certain interested parties (principally outside of the council) will continue to promote an approach that could see Island Line removed from the security of a wider franchise, and in light of this we anticipate that the future of service (and the DfT’s role in supporting it) will be an important issue in the upcoming General Election.
Click on the full screen icon to see larger version