Today (Monday) there’s good news for the users of Island Line. New trains are coming to the Island.
As anyone who has ridden the Isle of Wight’s train service knows, the trains that run between Shanklin and Ryde pier head are old. Really old.
The trains and carriages first came into service in 1938 on London Underground’s Tube. They’re so old in fact that they’re older than some of the wagons that run on the heritage Isle of Wight Steam Railway.
Five new trains
Today it’s been announced that the company Vivarail has been selected to build five new trains to run on the Isle of Wight.
The first two-car train is expected to arrive on test in early summer 2020, with track improvement works due to take place over the winter of that year.
The proposals were developed in partnership with key stakeholders on the Island, including Isle of Wight Council and Solent Local Enterprise Partnership. They have agreed to jointly contribute £1 million to fund a new passing loop at Brading, helping to deliver an even interval half-hourly service to the pier.
Mellors: A great day for the Isle of Wight
Andy Mellors, Managing Director of South Western Railway, said:
“This is a great day for the Isle of Wight. I want to pay tribute to our team at Island Line who have kept the current 1938 stock going for so long and to all of the stakeholders who helped us develop our proposals.
“I look forward to our continuing partnership as we deliver the next exciting chapter in Island Line’s history.”
Minister: A long overdue boost
The Department for Transport will support the investment into improving the tracks and other infrastructure to support the new trains.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:
“These trains have diligently served passengers since 1938 – coinciding with the first ever edition of the Beano and the maiden voyage of the record-setting Mallard steam train – so this upgrade is a long overdue boost.
“This investment in the Island Line means more punctual, reliable trains and better connections to ferry services, supporting local residents, businesses and tourism. This underlines our determination to provide passengers across the country with the modern rail network they expect.”
The proposals submitted to the DfT followed an initial stakeholder consultation back in the autumn of 2017. Feedback from that consultation was then considered by the Island Forum, made of stakeholders including: IOW Commuity Rail Partnership, IOW Steam Railway, the IOW Bus and Rail Users Group, Southern Vectis, KILF, Wightlink and Hovertravel, with detailed proposals reported back to a steering group.
Shooter: Great privilege to be part of upgrade
Vivarail CEO Adrian Shooter said:
“It is a great privilege for Vivarail to be part of the wholesale upgrade of the Island Line.
“Vivarail will be building third rail trains to make best use of Island Line’s electrified track, this follows on from our diesel units for West Midlands Railway and battery/diesel trains for Transport for Wales – and is an example of how flexible the train is.
“I look forward to taking the first ride and enjoying the picturesque views of the Isle of Wight from the comfort of the new trains.”
Who are Vivarail?
Back in 2014 Vivarail bought a lot of trains and carriages that used to run on the District line on London Underground.
In trainspotting circles, they’re called D78 Stock. Originally manufactured during 1980 by Metro Cammell, Vivarail take the trains, install electric motors and fit it out the D78’s aluminium bodyshells with new interiors – with can feature modern-needs such as phone charging.
Vivarail says, “Both bodyshell and bogies have been expertly inspected and assessed to have 25+ years of active service.”
MP: First significant upgrade for over 50 years
This in from the office of Isle of Wight Conservative MP, Robert Seely.
“When I became the Island’s MP, I pledged to make sure the Island was listened to by Whitehall.
“This is really great news for the Island and long over-due. With the support of local campaign groups, I have relentlessly made the case for securing the future of Island Line.
“I am pleased that yet again, the Government will be investing in the Isle of Wight, and I thank the Rail Minister for visiting the Island today to make this announcement with South Western Railway.
“This represents the first significant upgrade to the route for over 50 years (since electrification in 1967), and I look forward to liaising with SWR, Network Rail and the DfT to ensure that the benefits are delivered in a timely manner, with minimal disruption. Island Line serves residents, commuters, visitors and students on a daily basis – and I know how much these rail users will welcome this overdue investment.
“I am also pleased that a new passing loop will be introduced at Brading. This will improve connectivity with cross-Solent sailings at peak times, and complements the allocated funding from Network Rail to renew Ryde Railway Pier.
“I support the ambitions for steam trains to return to Ryde St Johns, and I will continue to work with the award-winning Isle of Wight Steam Railway to see how their practical proposals to achieve this can be delivered. I also support viability schemes to investigate the possibility of getting the Island line extended.”
Quirk: “KILF delighted with this outcome”
Cllr Chris Quirk – a founding member of the Keep Island Line in the Franchise (KILF) Campaign – added:
“We are delighted with this outcome. Our sole objective has always been to secure Island Line’s future within the wider franchise model. SWR’s package of investment for the route – backed by the DfT – confirms that our train service will continue to be an integral part of the wider operation.
“As far as we are concerned, today’s announcement is ‘mission accomplished’ for KILF. The input of the Island’s MP Bob Seely has been crucial. He has repeatedly made the case for Island Line in both Westminster and Whitehall, making clear that anything less than a comprehensive upgrade would be unacceptable. My colleagues on the Isle of Wight Council have also played a key role, and I am grateful for their efforts in negotiations with the DfT and SWR.
“For too many years, successive governments have ‘kicked the can down the road’ with Island Line – putting it in the “too difficult” box and leaving the Island with sub-standard rolling stock. Today we can finally be confident that our much-loved local train service will have a long and sustainable future.”
Here’s a video of the diesel/battery hybrid train that Vivarail make running in Blackminster (South of Birmingham) earlier this month.
Update 11:10: The new trains are not battery-powered as we’d first understood. Apologies. Correction made within ten minutes.
14:34 Removed reference to other Undergound lines that the D78 stock ran on
Image: © Vivarail