Bus and Rail Users’ Group


member of Bus Users’ UK and Railfuture

Response to Island Line Consultation


How important do you think Island Line is in the following areas?
The Island’s economy - Very, so far as Ryde, the Sandown Bay area and beyond to Ventnor are concerned.

The Transport network - Very, so far as the Ryde-Sandown-Shanklin corridor is concerned. Due to traffic congestion Rail offers far faster links between the points served than road alternatives as well as providing a direct link to the Wightlink ferry to Portsmouth.

How would you anticipate Island Line contributing to future growth on
the island and to regenerating the local economy?
Modernising the line with replacement trains, improved stations and upgraded infrastructure including Ryde Pier
Operating a more frequent train service during key parts of the day,
especially during the summer tourist season

What are your views on the current route?
Should the route continue in its current form? Yes, in terms of continued operation between Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin

How should the route link with Wightlink at Ryde Pier Head, Hovertravel at Ryde Esplanade and Southern Vectis?
With well timed connections, greater availability of through fares
to avoid passengers having to re-book at the Pier Head and the
ability to purchase Island Line tickets at the Pier Head and other
key stations rather than solely from the Guard on the train.
If physically possible, create level access between the Hover
Terminal and Ryde Esplanade station.
Southern Vectis
In conjunction with Network Rail and Southern Vectis, work to create
a modern “Interchange” to replace the current “down at heel”
facilities at Ryde Esplanade. Consider introducing through Rail/Bus
fares (Plus Bus?)

What is your definition of the term “more sustainable”?

Reduce the gap between income and expenditure by identifying the most cost efficient rolling stock and propulsion method to replace the current fleet. Seeking to maximise revenue by effective marketing, making it easy to buy tickets before joining a train and ensuring that on board revenue protection is given a high priority.

How do we encourage revenue growth to fund improvements? 

See 2 (b and c) above. Promote Island Line more widely throughout the
rest of South Western Railway both by direct advertising and more
subtle means such as showing connections to the Island on station
departure boards etc.

Should island Line be expanded to destinations such as Ventnor or Newport?
No.  Even if the line beyond Shanklin could be re-opened at an acceptable
cost, Ventnor station was always poorly sited. Over 50 years since
it closed, it is most unlikely that potential present day users would
be attracted to use a station situated high above the town. Newport
could, presumably, only be reached by use of the Isle of Wight Steam
Railway’s route between Smallbrook Junction and Wootton followed by
reinstatement of the line onwards towards Newport. It is hard to see
where a terminus could be created in Newport in view of the changes
that have taken place since the line closed in 1966 other than by
construction of a completely new route beyond the site of the former
Whippingham station. There would be little or no intermediate
traffic to be gained since the significant population centres between
Ryde and Newport of Binstead and Wootton Bridge are situated along
the A3054 road served by Southern Vectis Route 9 while the railway
runs through woodland and open country for almost its entire length.
The Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s stations at Havenstreet and
Wootton are poorly sited for the communities that they serve. To
accommodate even a minimal Island Line service, major changes would
have to be made to the Steam Railway’s infrastructure to a degree
that would probably destroy the historic environment that has made
the Steam Railway such a popular attraction.

Do you believe customers would be prepared to pay higher fares to
finance better rolling stock and improved infrastructure? 

Small levels of fare increase might be accepted but, overall, customers
would probably resent being required to pay for improvements that
should have happened both in the British Railways era and under the
stewardship of Network Rail and South West Trains.

Franchise Management
The South Western franchise is currently for seven years, including for
Island Line. Would you support a longer investment timeframe for
Island Line specifically?

Yes.  We do not believe that the arrangements in force since the line was
first franchised have served the island well.

Bearing in mind the aim is to make Island Line more sustainable, what kind
of infrastructure do you believe is most appropriate for Island Line
and why?

Bringing the present infrastructure up to a modern standard and then future
operation by relatively light weight trains that do little damage to
track appears to be the most effective way forward. We believe
maintenance of essentially the existing track layout as now would
allow for upgrading to take place with far less disruption to
services than might be the case if proposals for more significant
changes to the layout were to be adopted.

What improvements would you like to see in the infrastructure, and what
benefits would they bring? Stakeholders have mentioned various
issues: e.g. Ryde Pier, Ryde tunnel, a new passing loop to provide a
half hourly frequency, and embankment works as examples. 

Ryde Pier is a vital piece of the island’s infrastructure and must be
brought up to a proper standard and then maintained as such into the
future. Providing that replacement rolling stock can be procured
that fits the tunnel’s kinetic envelope then only routine
maintenance of the tunnel should be needed together with continued
provision of effective pumps for use in times of flooding.
Provision of a passing loop at Brading as has been suggested by some
Stakeholders would allow a half hour frequency but not one that
would easily allow the same train to both connect into and out of
the Wightlink ferry during its call at the pier. To do so would
require the passing loop to be sited north of Brading in an area
that has been notoriously unstable ever since the line opened in the
1860s. We suggest that a better proposal would be to retain and
upgrade the existing double track between Ryde and Smallbrook
Junction together with the passing loop at Sandown and exploit the
opportunity this provides to run a 20 minute frequency at
appropriate times of the day without expensive alterations to the
track layout.

How should the current lease arrangement with Network Rail be changed
when it ends in 2019 and why?

Ideally Island Line should be placed on the same footing as the rest of the
UK Rail network from 2019 onwards as it has been ill served by the
current arrangement that has prevented proper levels of investment
in the infrastructure due to the short term nature of the franchise
periods. Failing this, a much longer franchise period than 7 years
would reduce, although not eliminate the problem.

If future rolling stock is not heavy rail, how should the
infrastructure be delivered, managed, maintained and renewed.
Future rolling stock should continue to be heavy rail.

What type of power system would be better suited to Island Line? And

Ideally the current “third rail” electric power system should be
retained if it can be brought up to modern standards at acceptable
cost. Otherwise an Independent power supply seems most desirable
and we would support the use of battery technology if this can be
proved to be reliable.

Rolling Stock

What type of rolling stock do you favour? And why? Examples
include the following:

Class 483 trains.
No.  Life expired and no longer provide the quality which present day
passengers expect.

New or re-engineered self-propelled fly-wheel. 

No.  The only examples of this in operation in the UK are the Class 139
“Parry People Mover” trains run between Stourbridge Junction and
Stourbridge Town. These only seat a tiny number of passengers and
while theoretically a larger unit could be constructed, it would
still be too small to cope with large numbers of passengers
alighting from the ferry at Ryde Pier Head. These units have a poor
ride quality even on the Stourbridge line with its 15mph speed

New or re-engineered self-propelled diesel.

Not ideal as use of diesel at a time when Government policy is to move towards its abolition on roads cannot be seen as satisfactory. However, we
understand that such units have recently been ordered for use by
London Northwestern between Bletchley and Bedford but with the
possibility to convert them to battery power at a future date.

New or re-engineered self-propelled battery. 

Potentially Yes.  Provided trials which are taking place show that this is a viable option, it could be an appropriate solution.

New trains.

Ideal but likely to be prohibitively expensive for what would be a very small niche order.

Tram / train hybrid.

No. The long awaited Tram / Trains in Sheffield have still not entered
service. Island Line needs cannot wait for similar delays.

Light rail (overhead lines). 

No. This would require a complete rebuilding of the line at high cost.
There would also be an issue as to the suitability of overhead lines
on Ryde Pier at times of high winds.

Guided bus way.

No. It would be both difficult and costly to create a means by which
full size buses could access Ryde Pier and turn at the Pier Head.
The Guided bus ways at Cambridge (on-going problems with the
concrete roadway) and Dunstable (ridership has never approached
anticipated levels) have not been resounding successes.

We have no suggestions to make.

What improvements would you like to see to Island Line stations, taking
each in turn?
Ryde Pier Head
A major upgrade of this station is required to recognise its role as
the gateway to Island Line. Provision of a ticket machine is
urgently required to reduce the number of passengers who obtain a
free ride down the pier.
Ryde Esplanade
As at Ryde Pier Head, this station requires a significant upgrade,
ideally in conjunction with the establishment of a revamped
transport interchange linking Island Line with Southern Vectis buses
and by means of widening the unused station platform so as to allow
direct access to trains from the Hovertravel terminal without having
to cross the present footbridge. 
Ryde St. Johns Road
Much will depend on whether the Isle of Wight Steam Railway achieve their
objective to extend services from Smallbrook Junction to Ryde St.
Johns Road. In that situation, we would wish to see the needs of
Island Line’s regular users placed foremost in any reallocation of
use of the station’s facilities, platform layout etc. Recognising
the station’s role as a Park & Ride, we wish to see step free
access provided to platforms 2 & 3 and provision of a passenger
operated ticket machine.
Smallbrook Junction
If the station has a medium / long term future (depending on whether or
not the Steam Railway continue to use it as their northern terminus)
we wish to see improved waiting facilities for island Line
passengers and the platform surface upgraded to modern standards.
Provision of a waiting room would improve facilities for passengers, perhaps
in conjunction with the Brading Station Heritage Exhibition and
Visitor Centre. The existing platform awning offers protection from
direct rainfall but almost none from winds sweeping in from across
Bembridge Harbour.
Provision of proper step free access, rather than the present arrangement
separately to either side of the line, so that passengers unable to
use the current subway are able to use the car park and main station
entrance. Provision of a passenger operated ticket machine should
be a high priority.
We do not believe that major changes are required. However, if the
current platform surface is not to current standards, this upgrade
should be undertaken.
Upgrade the station toilets, keep the waiting room open throughout the hours when the train service runs and provide a shelter and seat on the
station forecourt for use by passengers waiting to transfer onto the
Southern Vectis bus connection to Ventnor. Provision of a passenger
operated ticket machine for use during hours when the ticket office
is not staffed.

How do you envisage these improvements being delivered? 

Improvements at each station may need to be delivered in different ways and in partnership with various other bodies e.g. Wightlink at Ryde Pier
Head, Isle of Wight Council / Ryde Town Council, Hovertravel and
Southern Vectis at Ryde Esplanade, Isle of Wight Steam Railway at
Ryde St. Johns Road and Smallbrook Junction, Brading Station
Heritage Exhibition and Visitor Centre at Brading, Network Rail’s
Access for All fund at Sandown (as well as at Ryde St. Johns Road)
while, at Shanklin, we have made a bid to the Customer and
Communities Fund to fund provision of our suggested bus shelter and

How can Community Rail help deliver a more sustainable future for Island
We are not clear as to how the Island’s Community Rail Partnership, as
presently structured, can help.

How could station improvements link to existing or new regeneration
We understand that Wightlink have plans to improve their area of Ryde
Pier Head. A joint project also involving Island Line could be
beneficial to both parties.
The Isle of Wight Council have plans to regenerate the area of Ryde
Esplanade and an upgrade of Ryde Esplanade station could form an
important part of this project.

What ticketing products, retailing options, ticket checking and
validation options would you like to see on Island Line? 

We look towards the same range of ticket options being available to
Island Line passengers as can be used by those using the rest of the
South Western Railway network. It is vital that through tickets of
all kinds to destinations on the mainland and including the ferry are
available, thus avoiding having to re-book at Wightlink’s ticket
office and, possibly, again at Portsmouth Harbour station. We
strongly recommend that the existing ticket offices at Ryde Esplanade
and Shanklin are retained and that consideration is given to
extending the hours of opening at Shanklin. Short distances between
stations mean that there is limited time for on-board ticket
inspection and selling, hence our request that passenger operated
ticket machines are installed at Ryde Pier Head, Ryde St. Johns Road,
Sandown and Shanklin. We also recommend that Island Line
destinations should be included on mainland ticket machines at key
stations. For local passengers, a form of contactless payment card
would be an incentive to travel and would reduce the risk of fare
evasion. It is widely believed that many people travel between Ryde
Pier head and Ryde Esplanade without a ticket and all realistic means
should be adopted to capture this lost revenue. The Park and Ride
facility at Ryde St. Johns Road station needs to be effectively
promoted as it is underused. This is despite it being cheaper for
two people to park there and catch the train to Ryde Pier Head
compared with paying the £1.00 toll to drive along the pier and pay
Wightlink’s all day parking charge to use their Pier Head car park.

What timetable improvements would you like to see on Island Line? 

A 20 minute frequency at appropriate times of the day and time of the
year. Such a frequency can be operated on the existing track layout
and would mean that local passengers would not need to consult a
timetable as it would offer a virtually “turn up and go” facility
and be likely to generate increased ridership if properly promoted.
A departure every 20 minutes from Ryde Pier Head would also mean
that, if a ferry arrived late from Portsmouth and missed the booked
connection, another train would depart in a short period of time.

We are not in a position to give a valid response to this.

Other areas
By working more closely than in the past with local businesses and
tourist attractions to promote use of the line

We look forward to our comments, as the body representing users of
Island Line, being taken into full account as the decision making
process continues during the early months of 2018.

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