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14.08.15

Council ‘confused and frustrated’ over Island Line future

Isle of Wight Council says it has been left “confused” and “frustrated” after the DfT said no decision had been made about the inclusion of the Island Line in the next South West Trains (SWT) franchise. 

Earlier this week, the local authority met officials from the Department and believed that the line would remain part of the new franchise when it is put to tender – but on terms to be developed following a public consultation exercise.

However, RTM was told by the DfT that “no decisions” have yet been made about its inclusion in the next SWT franchise, and to suggest otherwise is “inaccurate and misleading”. 

The council confirms that it has received no formal communication from the DfT about Island Line, and has not been engaged in any formal dialogue since the recent announcements that the DfT would not be extending the existing franchise by two years, to 2019

This week’s meeting had been arranged at the request of the council in order to clarify the DfT’s position. 

A spokesman for Isle of Wight Council said: “We were led to believe by the DfT that we would have until 2019 to properly consider models for the delivery of Island Line, because the DfT was concluding the negotiations for an extension of the existing franchise until that date. 

“The failure to deliver an extension to the existing franchise means that an invitation to tender will have to be issued in the spring of 2016 for a new franchisee to be in place in 2017. We, therefore, have ridiculously short time scales to make any meaningful response to whatever the DfT may be thinking or for anything more innovative than an updated version of the existing franchise arrangements to be delivered. 

“We remain even more unclear now about what we are responding to, and from the DfT’s statement we have to assume that all options, including the closure of or improvements to the line, are being considered.  The council is not a transport authority, and therefore has no direct control over what happens to Island Line.  Therefore, we would ask that the Department of Transport makes a clear and unequivocal statement about its intentions for Island Line at the earliest possible moment.” 

Image: Peter Trimming under CC BY 2.0

Comments

John   14/08/2015 at 15:12

Surely, no surprises here then!! DfT has historically proved itself inept at the whole process and The current incumbent would like to divest itself of the Island Line. We now need to see a new process in place involving all parties including the IoWR because they are interested in seeing an extension of their Heritage Steam Railway into Ryde and some stage and I'll bet that nobody is even talking to them!

Neil Palmer   14/08/2015 at 21:52

John, IOWSR have repeatedly stated they are NOT interested in taking over the Ryde to Shanklin line, most recently at the meeting held at Shanklin Theatre on August 11. Also since the Ryde tunnel floor was raised around 25cm back in 1966-67 to alleviate flooding issues, the IOWSR (and any other standard UK gauge stock) will not fit through the tunnel. There is however a possibility the IOWSR could extend operations from Smallbrook Jn, to Ryde St. John's Road with some minor infrastructure/signalling work. This would use one of the two tracks from Ryde St John's Road to Smallbrook Junction while Island Line uses the other.

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