Island Line Trains

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Island Line Trains
Isle of Wight Inselbahn.jpg
Franchise(s) Island Line
13 October 1996 – 3 February 2007
Part of South Western franchise
4 February 2007 – Present
Main area(s) Isle of Wight
Fleet size 5
Stations called at 8
National Rail abbreviation IL
Parent company South West Trains (Stagecoach)
Line length 8 miles 34 chains
Gauge Standard
Operating speed 45 mph (72 km/h) max.
Former logo of Island Line

Island Line Trains is a train operating company which runs the 8 12-mile Island Line on the Isle of Wight. Island Line is part of South West Trains, a rail franchise in the United Kingdom owned by Stagecoach.


Before Island Line[edit]

From 1985 to 1990 rail services on the Isle of Wight operated under the brand RydeRail. In 1986 Network SouthEast was created, itself part of British Rail, and RydeRail was incorporated into it as a sub-brand.

Island Line[edit]

The name Island Line first came into use in 1989, when Class 483 trains were introduced on the route, and this new brand name and a logo were included on the trains' livery. However, this re-branding did not officially occur until 1994,[1] when it had completely replaced all RydeRail branding.

From 1989 until 1996, Island Line was a sub-brand of Network SouthEast. In 1996, passenger services on the line were privatised as the Island Line franchise, with the winning bid from Stagecoach (legal name Island Line Limited[2]). On commencing operations on 13 October 1996 the name Island Line for the passenger service was retained.

Island Line was the only passenger franchise that included maintenance of the infrastructure in addition to the running of passenger services. Island Line was reportedly Britain’s most reliable and punctual train company; the shortness and simplicity of the route may contribute to this.

The Island Line franchise was, until February 2007, the smallest train operating company on the National Rail network. It was combined with the South West franchise to form the new South Western franchise in an effort to reduce the number of Train Operating Companies.[3]

Although South West Trains now operates the line, the Island Line branding has been retained.[4] Island Line Trains have repainted all their stations in a heritage cream and green colour scheme, as part of a general station improvement package.[5]


In March 2017 the DfT awarded the franchise to FirstGroup/MTR with South Western Railway, which includes the Island Line, to commence on 20 August 2017. It will run until at least August 2024 with an option for the DfT to extend for a further year.[6][7] South Western Railway will be working with the local council and bodies with regards to replacing the rolling stock, upgrading the infrastructure and adding an additional passing loop to introduce a 30-minute service to improve connection times with the Ryde to Portsmouth ferry service and the Hovercraft.[8][9][10] These expected changes were received favourably by the Keep Island Line in Franchise (KILF) group[11], who have been campaigning for improvements to the line for several years.

Rolling stock[edit]

Island Line train in dinosaur livery

Standard National Rail vehicle types cannot be used by Island Line Trains, due to the low ceiling within Ryde Tunnel.[12] 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 and were introduced to the island in 1967 when the line was electrified.

When the Class 483 trains were introduced, they were painted in the standard Network SouthEast livery. In 2000, several years after the start of the original franchise, the stock was painted into a blue livery with large pictures of dinosaurs, aiming to entice tourists in the summer months when passenger numbers are high. Two units were later painted into London Transport colours, which the units would have had when operating on the London Underground. There are yellow warning panels on the front ends of the units, a modern feature for the benefit of track workers and a change compared with the original red. The entire fleet was repainted into this livery by the end of 2008.

Following its successful bid for the new integrated franchise, South West Trains announced in 2006 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".[13]

As a cost-cutting exercise, South West Trains bought the rolling stock from the leasing company HSBC Rail in March 2007.[14] This means the leasing costs, which were reimbursed by the government, have been eliminated, thereby lowering the line's tax burden.

Island Line Class 483 No. 004 at the refurbished Ryde St. Johns Road station

Refurbishment of trains and stations[edit]

The refreshed interior of an Island Line Class 483 train

The six current Class 483 trains (including stored 483002) have recently[when?] benefited from a further refurbishment, including:

  • An exterior repaint into London Transport maroon with cream window pillars
  • A retrim of the seat moquette into the same moquette that the London Underground A60 and A62 Stock received during their refurbishment between 1993–98
  • New route maps in green

The stations have also benefited from a refurbishment of the following:[15]

  • New tarmac platforms
  • New seating in green and cream
  • New waiting shelters
  • New 'heritage' style station name boards
 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Routes operated   Built 
 mph   km/h 
Class 483 483009-Sandown.jpg electric multiple unit 45 72.5 5 Island Line 1938
1989 - 1992

Tube Stock[edit]

Class Image Top Speed Time in service Number Notes
Class 483 Isle of Wight Inselbahn.jpg 45MPH 5 July 1989 – Present 10 (4 scrapped, 1 store)
Classes 485 and 486 Shanklinstn.jpg 45MPH 1966 - 1980s 12 (1 preserved, rest scrapped)

The route[edit]

Island Line, Isle of Wight
0m 00ch
Ryde Pier Head
for ferries to Portsmouth
Ryde Pier
0m 32ch
Ryde Esplanade
for hovercraft to Southsea
Tunnel under Ryde
396 yd
362 m
St. John's Road
1m 19ch Ryde St John's Road
Ryde depot
2m 15ch Smallbrook Junction
Isle of Wight Steam Railway
UK road A3055.PNG
branch to Bembridge
4m 55ch Brading
Sandown Road
UK road A3055.PNG
line to Newport and Cowes
Sandown sidings
6m 41ch Sandown
UK road A3055.PNG
7m 27ch Lake
UK road A3055.PNG
8m 28ch Shanklin
Wroxall(closed 1966)
Tunnel under St Boniface Down
Ventnor(closed 1966)

The railway has eight stations:


  1. ^ Hardy, Brian (2003). Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight. Harrow Weald, Middlesex: Capital Transport. p. 75. ISBN 1-85414-276-3. 
  2. ^ Companies House extract company no 3007942 Island Line Limited
  3. ^ "Stagecoach wins railway franchise". BBC News Online. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 26 August 2007. 
  4. ^ "Island Line Online - Contact Us". Archived from the original on 23 July 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2007. Island Line is a brand name of Stagecoach South Western Trains Ltd. 
  5. ^ "Spruce up for Island Line stations". South West Trains. Retrieved 3 September 2007. 
  6. ^ FirstGroup and MTR welcome South Western rail franchise award London Stock Exchange 27 March 2017
  7. ^ First/MTR joint venture wins South Western franchise Railway Gazette International 27 March 2017
  8. ^ "Isle of Wight - Island Train to be run by First Group Consortium". 27 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  9. ^ "Island Line: Passenger group share cautious welcome over franchise news". 29 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  10. ^ "First MTR South Western Trains Limited wins South Western franchise". 27 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "1938 tube stock on the Isle of Wight". Retrieved 13 March 2009. 
  13. ^ "Stagecoach Group welcomes South Western Rail Franchise win". South West Trains. Retrieved 2016-04-04. 
  14. ^ "Island Line buys trains for £1". Solent TV. 28 March 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. 
  15. ^ TheRailwayCentre.Com

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Network SouthEast
As part of British Rail
Operator of Island Line franchise
1996 - 2007
Succeeded by
South West Trains
South Western franchise
Preceded by
Island Line Trains
Island Line franchise
Sub-brand of South Western franchise
2007 - present