Ryde-Newport steam services could return under new plan


By Phil Marsh

THE Isle of Wight Steam Railway could be extended at both ends, to provide a new link between Newport and Ryde St Johns Road, if plans for the Isle of Wight’s rail network come to fruition.

A public meeting in Shanklin Theatre on December 14 was billed as what the future shape of the Isle of Wight railways might be and how the 8 ½ mile Island Line operating the 1938 London Underground tube stock between Ryde Pierhead and Shanklin might be operated in the future.

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Advance publicity suggested that potential line reopening would be on the agenda, assumed to refer to the four-mile section between Shanklin and Ventnor which would bring back into use the famous 1300 yard Ventnor Tunnel.

The Wootton western terminus of the steam railway on a snowbound January 18, 2013. PHIL MARSH

The meeting was held as a result of the Department for Transport’s South Western rail franchise being let to South Western Railway and which contained an Island Line consultation condition. Should the plans unveiled on the night come to fruition, the meeting will be looked back upon as a genuinely historic event in years to come.

The consultation decreed by the DfT was to look at how the line’s financial losses could be reduced and following a change of the island’s MP and the threat of judicial review by the pressure group Keep Island Line in Franchise (KILF), Island Line looks not only to have been saved but expansion is very much on the cards.

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The threatened legal action against the DfT was prompted by the result of the pre-franchise tendering consultation when the DfT and the then rail minister Claire Perry announced their preferred option for removing Island Line from the South Western franchise, becoming a financially self-sustaining operation. That option, which would have brought closure or a tram or guided busway transport system, was supported by the previous MP Andrew Turner.

KILF’s membership included pro-rail IoW councillors who passed a binding motion stating that the IoW Council’s position was that Island Line should remain within a franchise. Despite a change in council political colour a year ago, this policy remained.

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