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Island Line to remain in rail franchising system after four-year battle

Vivarail trains for Isle of Wight as part of £26m investment

by Phil Marsh

THE unique Island Line will remain a heavy rail-operated route thanks to an investment worth £26million to cover new trains, a new passing loop, new platform height, and other infrastructure changes. 

The news comes at the end of a four-and-a-half year battle by campaigners to save the quirky 8½-mile line.

The package of improvements was confirmed in a ministerial announcement at Brading station on September 16. 

Vivarail will supply five two-car Class 484 third rail-powered electric trains to replace the 1938-built Class 483 1938 Tube stock now on their last legs. The line will be upgraded, too.

Launching the new vision for the Island Line are (left) Henry Posner III, owner of Vivarail’s parent company, the Railroad Development Corporation, and Vivarail chairman Adrian Shooter. PHIL MARSH

The announcement was made by newly appointed rail minster Chris Heaton-Harris, alongside Vivarail chairman Adrian Shooter, South Western Railway managing director Andy Mellors, Island MP Bob Seely, and leading campaigner David Pugh. 

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “These trains have diligently served passengers since 1938 – coinciding with the first edition of the Beano – so this upgrade is a long overdue boost.”

Mr Pugh is a leading member of the non-political community pressure group Keep Island Line in The Franchise (KILF), which brought a remarkable and normally unthinkable alliance between the RMT union and leading Conservative and Labour politicians.

Read more and view more images in the October 2019 issue of The RM – on sale now!

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