Island Line, Isle of Wight

Island Line, Isle of Wight

:"This article is about the railway on the Isle of Wight. For other uses, see Island Line."Infobox rail line
name = Island Line
color =

logo_width =

image_width =
caption =
type = Community railway
system =
status =
locale = Isle of Wight
start = Ryde Pier Head
end = Shanklin
stations =
routes =
ridership =
open =
close =
owner = Network Rail
operator = Island Line Trains
character =
depot = Ryde depot
stock = British Rail Class 483
linelength = 8½ miles
tracklength =
notrack = Mixture of single and double track
gauge = Standard gauge
el = 630V DC third rail
speed = convert|45|mph|km/h|abbr=on
elevation =

map_state = collapsed

The Island Line is a railway line on the Isle of Wight, running some 8½ miles from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin down the eastern side of the island. The line was electrified (630 V DC third rail) in 1967. [cite web|url=|title=Southern Electric Fleet Review Summer 2004|publisher=Southern Electric Group] [cite web|url=|title=Southern Electric History and Infrastructure (Part 4)|publisher=Southern Electric Group] Trains connect with passenger ferries to Portsmouth Harbour at Ryde Pier Head, and these ferries in turn connect with the rest of the National Rail network. The line also connects to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, a steam-operated heritage railway at Smallbrook Junction. For much of the line's length, it parallels the A3055.

The line was designated by the Department for Transport as a community railway in March 2006 under recent reforms to help boost use of rural and branch lines in the UK rail network. [cite news|url=|title=Island's new community rail route|date=2006-03-24|publisher=BBC News Online]

In the mid-1990s, it was planned to reopen the line south of Shanklin, to the original terminus at Ventnor. However, this now seems unlikely to happen, due in part to the high costs involved.


The line from Ryde St John's Road to Shanklin was originally built as part of the Isle of Wight Railway, which opened on 23 August 1864.In 1866 it was extended through to Ventnor. In 1880 the LSWR/LBSCR joint line was built from Ryde St John's Road through Ryde tunnel and onto a new pier to the pier head. Following the Railways Act 1921, the Island Line and the other railways on the Isle of Wight became part of the Southern Railway.

British Rail (1948-1996)

In 1948, the Southern Railway was nationalised, as part of British Railways, later British Rail.The line from Shanklin to Ventnor closed in April 1966. Steam trains were withdrawn from the line on 31st December 1966, the line reopening in March 1967 following its electrification. In the 1980s, British Rail was sectorised and the line became part of the Network SouthEast sector. Services on the line were branded as Ryde Rail.

Island Line franchise (1996-2007)

Following the Privatisation of British Rail, the rights to run services on the line were put out to tender as a franchise. Stagecoach Group were announced as the winner of the franchise and from October 1996 they operated the line under the name Island Line. The rolling stock at this time still retained the Network SouthEast livery. It was not until a few years later (2000) that the stock was painted into a new livery with large pictures of dinosaurs. Two units were then later painted back into London Transport colours that the units would have had when operating on the London Underground with one difference, the front ends of the units had yellow warning panels for the benefit of track workers.

The entire is fleet is now due to repainted into this livery, with 4 currently completed, and all 6 are expected to be completed by April 2008.

outh Western franchise (2007-present)

From February 2007, the Island Line franchise was merged with the South Western franchise on the mainland. Stagecoach were announced as the winner of the new franchise, and they now operate the line through their South West Trains subsidiary. [cite news|url=|title=Stagecoach wins railway franchise|date=2006-09-22|accessdate=2007-09-25|publisher=BBC News Online] However, the branding from the previous operator has been retained.


Various proposals have been put forward for the future of the railway line. These have included
* Re-opening the line southwards to Ventnor.
* Conversion of the line to an express bus road. [cite web|url=|title=Buses on Rail Lines No Easy Answer|date=2005-04-22|accessdate=2008-07-22|publisher=Isle of Wight County Press]
* Connecting the line to the mainland rail network via a Solent tunnel. [cite web|url=|title=Tram Link Idea Wins Poll Approval|date=2008-04-11|accessdate=2008-07-22|publisher=Isle of Wight County Press]

At present, only the last of these options appears to be likely. It has previously been mentioned in the Isle of Wight Council's Local Transport Plan that any improvements to the railway should be made to ensure compatibility with the currently shelved South Hampshire Rapid Transit scheme.

The book "Tube Trains On The Isle Of Wight" listed several interesting earlier considerations to the future of the line prior to 2004. These included
* Replacement of the current stock with discarded LT stock of later builds, such as the 1972 and 1983 stock.
* De-electrification of the whole line and replacement of current stock with a new build of diesel units.
* Rebuilding the line into a light rapid-transit system (i.e. trams), enabling an extension into Shanklin town centre.


"In order from north to south."

* Ryde Pier Head, opened July 12, 1880.
* Ryde Esplanade, opened April 5, 1880.
* Ryde St John's Road, opened August 23, 1864.
* Smallbrook Junction, opened July 20, 1991; served on steam operating days only.
* Brading, opened August 23, 1864.
* Sandown, opened August 23, 1864.
* Lake, opened May 11, 1987.
* Shanklin, opened August 23, 1864.
* Wroxall, opened September 15, 1866, closed April 17, 1966.
* Ventnor, opened September 15, 1866, closed April 17, 1966.

Rolling stock

Due to the isolated and rural nature of the line rolling stock has tended to be made up from displaced older vehicles, rebuilt or modified as required. Since electrification old London underground stock has been used.

Standard National Rail vehicle types cannot operate on the Island Line, due to a tunnel at Ryde Esplande being 10 inches too low for the vehicles to clear. [cite web|url=|title=1938 tube stock on the Isle of Wight] Instead, services are operated using Class 483 units, which are refurbished ex-London Underground tube trains originally built in 1938. These replaced the older Class 485 and Class 486 units, which dated from 1923.

Following its successful bid for the new integrated franchise, South West Trains announced that there were no plans to replace the current rolling stock, instead they would invest "to ensure the continued viability of the existing Island Line rolling stock and infrastructure". [cite web|url=|title=Stagecoach Group welcomes South Western Rail Franchise win|publisher=South West Trains] By 2016, when the current franchise is due to end, the rolling stock will be almost 80 years old.

The rolling stock has recently been bought outright by South West Trains from the leasing company HSBC Rail. [cite web|url=|title=Island Line buys trains for £1|date=2007-03-28|publisher=Solent TV] This means the leasing costs, which were reimbursed by the government, will be eliminated, thereby lowering taxes paid to the government. The units will now be repainted into the current red LT colours. The stations will also be painted in the heritage cream and green, as part of a general station improvement package. [cite web|url=|title=Spruce up for Island Line stations|accessdate=2007-09-03|publisher=South West Trains]

See also

*Island Line Trains
*Isle of Wight Railway


External links

* [ BBC Travel News - Island Line]
* [ Isle of Wight Council Rail Study]

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