Island Line, Isle of Wight
- This article is about the railway on the Isle of Wight. For other uses, see Island Line.
|Locale||Isle of Wight|
|Termini||Ryde Pier Head
|Operator(s)||Island Line Trains|
|Rolling stock||British Rail Class 483|
|Line length||8 1⁄2 miles (13.7 km)|
|No. of tracks||Mixture of single and double track|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Electrification||750V DC third rail|
|Operating speed||45 mph (72.4 km/h)|
|Island Line, Isle of Wight|
The Island Line is a railway line on the Isle of Wight, running some 8 1⁄2 miles (13.7 km) from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin down the eastern side of the island. The line was electrified (630 V DC third rail) in 1967. 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 its length the line runs alongside the A3055, criss-crossing this road by means of the Ryde Tunnel and bridges at Rowborough, Morton Common, Lake Hill and Littlestairs.
The line from Ryde St John's Road to Shanklin was opened on 23 August 1864, having been built by the Isle of Wight Railway. In 1866 the line was extended through to Ventnor. The line was originally built as single track throughout, with passing loops provided at Brading, Sandown and Shanklin stations.
In 1880 the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) and London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) opened a jointly-owned line north from Ryde St John's Road. Under the direction of LBSCR Chief Engineer Frederick Banister, the construction of the extension included a new tunnel and a third Ryde Pier to enable the line to reach Ryde Pier Head, which provided a connection with the companies' ferry services. When the LBSC/LSWR joint line opened, it was as a double track section from Ryde St John's Road station through to Ryde Pier Head. There was a scissors crossover situated on Ryde Pier to allow trains to access all platforms. Sets of crossovers were installed at St John's Road to enable trains to change from the joint line's left-hand running to the single-track sections on the Isle of Wight Central Railway's Newport line and the Isle of Wight Railway's Shanklin line (now known as the Island Line).
Following the Railways Act 1921, the Island Line and the other railways on the Isle of Wight became part of the Southern Railway. In 1926, crossovers and a signalbox were installed at Smallbrook Junction to extend double track operation from St John's Road. However, the signalbox was used only in the summer when traffic levels were high. In the winter, the two lines from Smallbrook to St. John's Road reverted to independent single track operation.
In 1927, the passing loops at Brading and Sandown were connected to form a second section of double track.
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 Ryde Pier on 17 September, and the whole line on 31 December 1966. While the line was closed, the trackbed in Ryde Tunnel was raised to reduce flooding and decrease gradients, the rebuilding of Ryde Pier Head station was completed and Ryde Esplanade station was also substantially modified. The line reopened 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.
British Rail opened two new stations on the line. Lake station opened in 1987. Smallbrook Junction station opened in 1991, in co-operation with the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.
The double track between Sandown and Brading, along with the Brading passing loop, were removed in 1988. In 1989 the passenger service was branded as Island Line for the first time, as the name and logo was included on the "new" Class 483 trains' livery. However, this rebranding did not officially occur until 1994.
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. Uniquely on the National Rail network, the franchise agreement also required the successful bidder to maintain the railway line in addition to the stations and trains. Stagecoach Group were announced as the winner of the franchise and from October 1996 they operated passenger services under the name Island Line.
In 2002, a form of Automatic Train Protection was installed on the line. This involved the refitting of tripcocks on trains and the associated train stop trackside equipment at signals. This system is almost identical to the one originally fitted to the trains when in service on the London Underground, although is only in use at signals protecting single-track sections of the route.
South Western franchise (since 2007)
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 expanded franchise, and they now operate Island Line under their South West Trains subsidiary. However, the Island Line name has been retained, styled as Island Line Trains, promoted as a separate division on the South West Trains website.
Island Line Trains have also repainted stations in a heritage scheme of cream and green, as part of a general station improvement package.
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.
Various other proposals have been put forward for the future of the railway line. These have included:
- Conversion of the line to an express bus road.
- Connecting the line to the mainland rail network via a Solent tunnel.
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. A more recent suggestion (early 2009) has been to reinstate the loop at Brading, thus allowing a 'Clock Face' timetable to encourage greater use. The outcome of this is still awaited.
The book Tube Trains on the Isle Of Wight listed several interesting earlier considerations to the future of the line being considered during its publication date of 2004. These included
- Replacement of the current stock with discarded London Transport stock of later builds, such as the 1972 stock and 1967 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 12 July 1880.
- Ryde Esplanade, opened 5 April 1880.
- Ryde St John's Road, opened 23 August 1864.
- Smallbrook Junction, opened 20 July 1991; served on steam operating days only.
- Brading, opened 23 August 1864.
- Sandown, opened 23 August 1864.
- Lake, opened 11 May 1987.
- Shanklin, opened 23 August 1864.
- Wroxall, opened 15 September 1866, closed 17 April 1966.
- Ventnor, opened 15 September 1866, closed 17 April 1966.
Due to the isolated and rural nature of the Isle of Wight's railways, rolling stock has tended to be made up from displaced older vehicles, rebuilt or modified as required. Following the work undertaken during the line's closure during the winter of 1966–67, the ceiling of Ryde Tunnel is 10 inches too low for standard National Rail vehicle types to clear.
Since the reopening of the line in 1967, former London Underground Tube stock has been used. The initial trains were formed of so-called Standard Stock, made up into four and three-coach sets (with one spare vehicle, normally kept at Ryde depot), designated "4-VEC" and "3-TIS" in the British Rail Southern Region electric multiple unit classification system. (The classification letters were a pun on the Roman name for the island - Vectis, also reflected in the name of the island's nationalised bus company, Southern Vectis, which was once partially railway-owned.) Under the British Railways TOPS rolling stock classification system (introduced in 1968 for locomotives and later extended to multiple unit vehicles), these units eventually became Class 485 and Class 486. The cars transferred to the island were built at various dates between 1923 and 1934, and thus maintained a somewhat unwelcome tradition of providing the island's railways with among the oldest rolling stock running anywhere on the British railway system. By 1992 these units had been replaced by newly-refurbished London Underground 1938 Stock, designated Class 483 by British Rail. The stock is maintained at Ryde St John's Road depot. The appearance of a large number of withdrawn Victoria line vehicles of 1967 stock at Eastleigh works during mid-2011 fuelled speculation that these might be about to become the next generation of Island Line trains.
Annual season tickets
Because the Isle of Wight is within the Network Southeast area, annual season tickets issued to and from its stations are issued as Gold Cards. A ticket from Ryde Pier Head to Ryde Esplanade is the cheapest annual ticket in the area, and even though many holders of such tickets never use them for the intended journey, the discount obtained over the year may amply repay the cost of the ticket.
The figures below are the number of passengers on the line from the year beginning April 2002 to the year beginning April 2010. Smallbrook Junction has no road or footpath access and is normally open only on days when the connecting Isle of Wight Steam Railway is operating.
|Ryde Pier Head||116,652||121,387||116,812||149,226||193,714||210,604||210,604||235,156||223,542|
|Ryde St John's Road||140,242||160,891||175,208||178,869||178,914||190,796||200,976||240,046||251,694|
|The annual passenger usage is based on sales of tickets in stated financial years from Office of Rail Regulation statistics. The statistics are for passengers arriving and departing from each station and cover twelve month periods that start in April. Please note that methodology may vary year on year.|
- Hardy, Brian (2003). Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight. Harrow Weald, Middlesex: Capital Transport. ISBN 1-85414-276-3.
- Southern Electric Group Historical Features Index "Southern Electric Fleet Review Summer 2004". Southern Electric Group.
- "Southern Electric History and Infrastructure (Part 4)". Southern Electric Group.
- "Federick Dale Banister". GracesGuide.co.uk. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Hardy 2003, p. 9.
- "1938 tube stock on the Isle of Wight". squarewheels.org.uk. Retrieved 2007-08-26.
- Hardy 2003, pp. 19–20, 23.
- Hardy 2003, p. 75.
- Hardy 2003, p. 79.
- "Island's new community rail route". BBC News. 24 March 2006.
- "Stagecoach wins railway franchise". BBC News. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-25.
- "Spruce up for Island Line stations". South West Trains. Retrieved 2007-09-03.
- "Buses on Rail Lines No Easy Answer". Isle of Wight County Press. 22 April 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- "Tram Link Idea Wins Poll Approval". Isle of Wight County Press. 11 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- Hardy 2003, p. 46.
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