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Isle of Wight reopening delayed by software problems

REFURBISHED trains intended for the Isle of Wight have developed software problems, and the line will not be able to reopen in May as planned.

Instead, South Western Railway said it was ‘disappointed’ to announce that the service between Ryde and Shanklin will still be provided by buses into the summer.

SWR projects director Alex Foulds said: ‘We are as disappointed as our customers by this delay. Our infrastructure works are largely on track, but there is a delay to the delivery of the trains and we apologise for the impact that will have on our customers and the communities we serve. We continue to work incredibly hard in partnership with our train supplier Vivarail to reopen a safe, reliable and fully upgraded Island Line as soon as possible.’

Adrian Shooter is the CEO of Vivarail, which modernises former London Underground cars for service on local lines.

He added: ‘This is an announcement I hoped I wouldn’t have to make. I must tell you that, regrettably, there will be a delay in delivery of our trains for the Island Line. Whilst we were able to deliver the first train to the Isle of Wight several months ago, the rest of the fleet are still at Eastleigh for mainline testing before delivery.

‘We know that this is the second delay to the introduction of the new service, and acknowledge that South Western Railway is on schedule with its infrastructure upgrades.

‘As a company we take full responsibility and offer our apologies to the passengers and staff of the Island Line.  It would be easy to hide behind Covid and point the finger at the pandemic, but we had in fact managed to claw back a lot of that lost time and brought the build back on schedule and all trains have now left our factory.

‘However, we have unforeseen difficulties with the software.  Although in essence it is no different to the version we have used previously it needed some changes to enable the train to run on the third rail.  Planning and analysis began over 18 months ago and did not bring any problems to light, but the live tests have uncovered some serious issues.  Our priority is to deliver safe and reliable trains, so I have instructed my team to undertake a thorough review rather than try to “patch” the software. 

‘Although this is a difficult time I would like to acknowledge also the help that we have had from our friends in the Railway Family. Bombardier allowed us to use their test track at Derby, Arriva have let us use their depot at Eastleigh and Network Rail could not have been more helpful.  Above all the support from SWR has been invaluable. Their team of engineers and project manager have given us help and guidance throughout and it is testament to their professionalism that we still have a robust testing, delivery and training programme.

‘We have a team of engineers on the island already, working with SWR’s depot engineers to ensure a smooth handover of responsibilities as the rest of the fleet begin to arrive.’

The last examples of the previous Isle of Wight fleet, which had consisted of ex-London Transport 1938 tube stock, were withdrawn in January, and buses have been replacing the trains since then.

The infrastructure is also being upgraded, including the power supply and the depot at Ryde. A passing loop is being restored at Brading, which will allow a more frequent service.

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