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Island Line under threat

Discussion in 'Heritage railways & Centres in the Uk' started by Shaggy, Jul 24, 2015.

  1. 30854

    30854 Member

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    Indeed.... The perennial lack of funds within both the Isle of Wight Railway (the comparatively prosperous line to Ventnor) and the Isle of Wight Central Railway (decidedly less than prosperous throughout it's life) led the LBSCR and LSWR to bury the hatchet long enough to fork out for the island companies' trains to reach north of StJohns Road to Ryde Esplanade (opened April 1880) and Ryde Pier Head (opened July 1880). Working this joint line was, from the outset, entrusted to the Island companies.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
  2. Christopher125

    Christopher125 Part of the furniture

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    It's the contrast with his previous report that's interesting - nothing about trams or light rail, while recommending the line is kept part of the 'franchised national rail network'.

    Trying to close it against the wishes of local residents and politicians while setting a precedent for countless other lines across the country would most certainly put it high on the DfT's agenda - but I see nothing to suggest there's any appetite for that. Finding the money, most likely from Network Rail's CP6 funding, will be far easier and infinitely less controversial.

    It is an intensively used line, the service is predominantly 2tph all year round with 8 stations in 8-odd miles and not much slack in the timetable - simple, lightweight EMUs make perfect sense especially given the track and infrastructure, and are ideal for a small, isolated (and flood prone!) depot with no history of maintaining DMUs. There might be an initial cost saving, but it would surely prove a false economy.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  3. martin1656

    martin1656 Part of the furniture

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    I'm coming at this with the likely assumption that by 2019, the rule book will have been ripped up, that faced with rising loses on NR's budget, there will be no funding, and what is, will have to show value for money, As Christopher says, CP6 funding would be an easier way, but faced with a very difficault outlook generally, can it be assumed to still be there, i would suggest there will be a lot more politically urgent, for the government calls for that money than one an area that has one MP, other routes that have several marginal seats i would think will be upper most in the secretary for transports mind. it wont be a decision based on railway needs,, it will be one based on government and the need to survive.
     
  4. SpudUk

    SpudUk Well-Known Member

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    I would be very surprised if the Island Line were ever to close. The prohibitive cost of the car ferry meant that the majority of my visits in my youth were on foot and the Island Line was indispensable in getting about
     
  5. martin1656

    martin1656 Part of the furniture

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    there are some who will argue that the island bus network would be able to fulfill that role, ;) I must admit in my early 20's i also used public transport to visit the island, back then there was no option but to catch the number 3 to Havenstreet, but i also used island line to visit Shanklin after my trip to Havenstreet , because i had fond memories of the old village from family holidays , so a day spent at havenstreet, 4 aclock bus back to ryde, and an early evening spent in Shanklin then a eveing train back to ryde for the ferry. getting home about 10 pm
    Could you do that now? i do want to see island line survive, but fear that under national ownership it will not have the flexibility to tap new markets, as its existing market is static.its been run down over the years because everything is done on a shoe string, and i can't see this changing, unless there is a will, and the funding to do it,
     
  6. gwalkeriow

    gwalkeriow Active Member

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    Alas their is no number 3 service anymore, Havenstreet has no bus service whatsoever. Large parts of the Island have no bus service at all. The routes that Southern Vectis does run are still very good, with frequent services that are run with a very modern bus fleet. The down side is the high level of fares that they charge make bus travel for families out of the question.
     
  7. martin1656

    martin1656 Part of the furniture

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    So basically if using public transport its either Wotton, or Smallbrook junction so that despite what PH asserts if you only had the bus to get to the IOWSR given to cost how many people would be put off by the high fares ? for instance, if you were holidaying in the west of the island, could you actually get to Wotton with in a reasonable time span?
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  8. gwalkeriow

    gwalkeriow Active Member

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    Wootton and Smallbrook are both well served by Southern Vectis and Island Line respectively. Depends very much where you live on the West Wight, some areas are probably quite well served whereas others have nothing.
     
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  9. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Firstly I have a bus pass, as lots of people do. Secondly, Southern Vectis is an excellent bus c0mpany running immaculate vehicles and one of their staff is UK bus driver of the year which is no surprise. Excellence always costs money but if you were holidaying on the Island a weekly pass is a very good deal. Saves a lot.

    Now to specifics. There are two services an hour from Newport (Service 9 via Staplers) which stop right outside Wootton station. Newport is the hub for Western Wight services.

    When the Havenstreet bus ceased, the Parish Council subsidised a "community bus" two days a week. A school bus (characteristically brand spanking new) was hired from Southern Vectis. Sometimes the couple of old codgers coming over from the mainland were on their own but there were never more than one or two locals when I used it. So it was cancelled and replaced by an arrangement with the local private hire operator whereby his largest vehicle would take residents to where they really wanted to go e.g. Tesco Ryde. I am told this service carries more than the bus did.

    Moral from the last paragraph to public transport zealots is "give people what they want" rather than "give them what you think they ought to want". That is something we railway enthusiasts have to remember as well.

    PH
     
  10. 30854

    30854 Member

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    "Reality 101". Couldn't agree more. Delusion is a dangerous affliction which causes more, and worse, cock-ups than assumption.
     
  11. Christopher125

    Christopher125 Part of the furniture

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    Decisions about CP6 have to be made now, well before 2019 as per the Railways Act 2005 - the 'High Level Output Specification' (HLOS) for CP6 was actually released just a few weeks ago which 'sets out what the Secretary of State for Transport wants to be achieved', though the exact funding on offer won't be known till the Autumn.

    What we do know is that the emphasis will be on operations, maintenance and renewals - enhancements will now be dealt with separately to avoid another 'shopping list' of schemes that haven't been developed enough to properly cost.

    Quite simply there remains no political appetite for closing railways - any money that might be saved closing a few loss-making routes is too insignificant to be worth the bother.

    Going back to what I said about loadings, it was standing room only again yesterday on my way to Ryde - a rough count would suggest 100+ on the 15:24 from Sandown. 3-car sets might be a useful compromise for any future fleet...
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
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  12. Peter Wilde

    Peter Wilde New Member

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    There seem to be some uncomfortable conclusions emerging from all this:

    The Island Line as presently constituted has declining patronage, and is not really succeeding either as a public transport artery, or as a heritage experience despite its quirky old EMUs;

    The line needs substantial investment if it is to offer a better service;

    Island Line is not in the best place to provide a public transport service. It is little use for going to Newport or Cowes; doesn’t connect with some ferry routes; and provides no access to the best of the countryside and coastal scenery, in the west half of the island;

    Most potential users are tourists - and most tourists come to the island with their cars. So is re-equipping the line with another batch of secondhand modern traction really the right way to go, even if the service frequency could also be improved?

    However the IOWSR has its hands full with its existing operation, and the possibility of extending the short distance to Ryde St Johns Road. It is not interested in taking over the rest of the Island Line should that option become available.​

    Thus, it seems Island Line’s future will be determined by local and national politics - and by whatever is (at the future crunch point) deemed to be affordable.

    A thought: If the all the above factors took effect in the most unfavourable way, and the Island Line was detached from the First (etc) SWT franchise and closed, what could be done with the trackbed? Would there be any future in converting the route to a 15 in or 2 foot gauge steam tourist railway? There could be some advantages. The line would become more obviously attractive to tourists, while being a somewhat different offering that could to some extent complement rather than compete with the standard-gauge IOWSR. And the trains would be small enough to alleviate some of the flood risk, by substantially raising the floor of the Ryde tunnels.

    And wasn’t the RHDR a little while back getting very worried about the lack of tourists in its part of the Kent coast, and seriously contemplating uprooting its whole operation to some place with more holidaymakers?

    On the other hand - being limited to (at best) 25 mph, and having cramped trains with no luggage space, might pretty much prevent the line being seen as a viable kind of public transport. So maybe this idea is WIBN - but hopefully still an interesting proposition.
     
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  13. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Forgive me but this seems like a basic piece of railway enthusiasts wishful thinking which goes back to around 1951. There was someone called O.H.Prosser who used to go around giving talks on the premise that volunteer operated railways were the answer to the rural transport problem. This sounds a bit as if it comes from the same handbook with a few modifications.

    Again, as I said before, give the public what it wants, not what zealots think it ought to want. This may, or may not be trains.

    PH
     
  14. 30854

    30854 Member

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    One of the early proposals on the IoW was for a 3ft gauge line. Island company..... Beyer Peacock were the largest loco supplier pre-grouping.... wonder what it would've looked like? (Hello Ray!)

    Had that happened, my guess is it wouldn't have been involved in the 1923 grouping and would probably have folded some time between 1928 and 1940.

    The RH&DR did once mention upping sticks. Whether that's still in the back of anyone's mind, I don't know. Could a 15" gauge installation could be viable? In all honesty, this is, at best, questionable. The present stock on the Marsh is constrained by Littlestone Road bridge at New Romney. Bure Valley stock (same gauge) is markedly larger, though realistically still a bit on the 'cosy' side for serious transport.

    From what I've seen, though I stand to be corrected on this, I'd categorise the Island's tourist market as (1) day trippers (2) God's waiting room - east coast and (3) caravaners & campers - predomiantly West Wight (4) Activity based - anywhere

    Then there remains the point that no heritage operation has, thus far, managed to provide a regular, year round, service. To provide serious commuter services, trains need to start early and finish late. This just doesn't match the existing heritage service model anywhere.

    Looked at from a purely economic standpoint, the Island Line, taken as a whole, is a dead duck. Adding other factors though, IMO changes the game completely. There's no justification for costing re-equipping as though it were a mainline. Reconditioned rail is available. Reconditioned stock is available. Failing deployment of class 230s, urban tramways across Europe are steadily changing to low floor stock. At worst, these could be reconditioned to give 20+ years of service.

    The Pier Head to St Johns section is both viable and essential. This, plus the inescapable cost of road upgrades essential if the railway were to be closed, makes me tend to the view that some means of retaining full services, including southwards to Shanklin, is the likely outcome, providing the necessary upgrades can be funded.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  15. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Resident of Nat Pres

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    It's the Cameron big society as applied to transport :)

    I suspect that by and large, given its relative geographic isolation, the IoWSR has broadly risen to its sustainable level of volunteer support - that is, the vast majority of people in its catchment who are motivated enough to volunteer at a railway are probably already doing so. If that premise is true, it seems relatively unlikely that another large volunteer-run railway attraction (regardless of gauge) could get off the ground(*), for no other reason than their being no obvious large pool of untapped volunteer labour. (The same would also apply to a significantly expanded IoWSR, were it to take on a substantial part of Island Line).

    (*) Afterthought: staying well grounded is probably a good idea for heritage railways - both literally and figuratively!

    Tom
     
  16. martin1656

    martin1656 Part of the furniture

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    Much of what 30854 has stated is true, on paper, viewed on pure logic the line should have closed soon after electrification in 1967, that was the plan, but some how against the odds, its struggled on, but now the infrastructure is now close to life expired, and it will be for the franchise holder to decide on what they are prepared to do, there is no cheap and easy option, replacing the 1927 stock with a small fleet of 1938 stock was easier, because it was availible, and fitted without major impact to the line, but there is no option to do that now, so whats the options, NR to bite the bullet and fund the work needed to maintain island line so that it needs less maintenance and that the line is upgraded to make replacement stock easier, in other words clearences changed to allow mainland stock to be used, that makes sence,
    the line speed is i believe 45 mph, so the line should be cheaper to renew /repair than on the mainland. Iam assuming the pinch points are both road over bridges so could be rebuilt, and Ryde tunnel has been altered already, such a move would certainly make securing replacement stock easier, because then, what ever is due to be replaced on the mainland should in theory fit.
    If NR do decide to bite the bullet, the line will be safer, but if its carry on as before, then i have to say the lines long term future has to be under question.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
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  17. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    The "elephant in the room" is. of course, the pier.

    Paul H
     
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  18. martin1656

    martin1656 Part of the furniture

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    that would depend on how long a time span they want , if they, NR are serious, they will inspect the pier and do what is needed, of course, there is another option, that is the wightlink, fund a channel to be dug so the fast cat craft can dock at RYDE Esplanade
     
  19. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    That sounds delightfully simple but it ain't! Dredging of any kind interferes with coastal drift and if done without detailed complex calculations, can bring about coastal erosion. So the temptation to fund the cost of dredging by flogging off the sand/shingle has to be resisted and the spoil dumped in the position where then drift would have transported it had the excavation not happened.

    Paul H
     
  20. Romsey

    Romsey Active Member

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    I have a vague memory that the pier is owned by Wightlink, who certainly collect the vehicle tolls and parking at RPH. Just another complication in the whole problem.

    A channel to bring the fast cats close in shore - I haven't heard of that idea from relatives on the IOW. It does have some merit but keeping the channel clear may be another problem with the constantly moving sandbanks.

    Cheers, Neil
     

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