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July 6, 2021

Isle of Wight County Press – £67m Isle of Wight train plan sent to Department for Transport

View this article here.

A business case considering the re-opening of the railway between Island Line and Newport has been submitted to the Department for Transport by the Isle of Wight Council.

The authority, supported by Island MP Bob Seely, is seeking government support from the ‘Restoring Your Railway‘ fund.

The plan is to further develop the case for reinstating some of the Island’s lost railway links.

What could be up the tracks?

From Ryde Pier to Newport, by train?

The project will aim to reinstate the disused rail line between Island Line and Newport, via Blackwater.

Those behind the scheme want to provide a frequent, fast and reliable railway service from Ryde Pier Head to the Island’s county town.

Councillor Phil Jordan, Cabinet member for transport and infrastructure, said extending the Island’s rail network had significant potential to boost the local economy while helping to ease congestion and reduce carbon emissions.

“Reinstating this rail link is vital” – Cllr Phil Jordan 

He said: “Reinstating this rail link is vital to supporting the economic growth of our Island and to help reduce carbon emissions. It will provide a viable alternative to private car travel by improving journey times and connectivity.

“We’ve submitted a strong case and hope the project will be successful in moving to the next stage. The government has previously signalled support for our ambitions and we’re hopeful they’ll help us progress this scheme further.”

  • May 2020: Isle of Wight Council received up to £50,000 from the Restoring Your Railways programme to prepare a feasibility study for restoring former rail links between Newport and Ryde and Ventnor and Shanklin.
  • December 2020: Isle of Wight Council appointed a group organisations, led by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR Ltd), to prepare an early feasibility study.

Extending the existing Island Line to Newport via Blackwater was identified as the most viable element of the project to be progressed as an initial phase, at an estimated cost of £67 million.

The proposal would utilise the former Sandown to Newport railway — the track bed of which remains very largely intact — to link the existing Island Line to Newport.

A £26 million project is already underway to upgrade Island Line, although it has faced significant delays.

What is the Restoring Your Railway Fund?

The Department for Transport (DfT) is inviting MPs, local councils and community groups across England and Wales to propose how they could use funding to reinstate axed local services and restore closed stations.

Funding is split into three categories:

  • Ideas Fund – development funding for early-stage ideas to explore options to restore lost rail services connections to communities
  • Advanced proposals – support for lines and stations already being considered for restoration and for those identified as having further potential via the Ideas Fund application and assessment process
  • Proposals for new stations and the restoration of old station sites

Under the restoration proposal, existing cycling and walking routes would be retained and enhanced, the Isle of Wight Council said.

Future plans?

An extension of the service between Ryde Pier Head and Ventnor, improving accessibility for residents and supporting Ventnor to reach its full potential as a visitor destination, could also eventually be on the cards.

“Major change.” – Bob Seely MP

Mr Seely said: “This bid is an opportunity to bring about major change and regenerate our towns. It is a vision designed to unlock the Island’s growth and development potential by using transport to connect people to businesses, jobs and education.

“Restoring branch lines between our two main towns would enable greater integration with cross-Solent transport providers, encourage low-carbon travel, bring people closer to town centres and encourage a holistic approach to active and public transport.

“By breaking the cycle of unsustainable, car dependent greenfield development, new transport links into town centres could support a recycling culture of housing within our towns and villages.”

If the Strategic Outline Business Case be approved by the government, the project will progress to the next stage, which is the preparation of a more detailed Outline Business Case.

Stakeholders will be invited to an online presentation from the project team later this month.

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