The Isle of Wight’s Steam Railway says it “welcomes the investment of £26 million to fund improvements to Island Line which will help secure its future”.
The Steam Railway, however, has halted plans to run its heritage trains on part of the Island Line network.
South Western Rail says it understands the Steam Railway’s “disappointment” in not fulfilling its “long-term ambition to return steam hauled trains to Ryde St John’s Road”.
The educational charity, based at Havenstreet, had previously held talks with former Island Line franchisee Stagecoach. Discussions broke down when South Western Railway (SWR) took over the franchise.
The Steam Railway says,
“[SWR’s] vision for the Island Line operation was significantly different from that of the previous franchisee [Stagecoach].”
The Steam Railway was offered the opportunity to run its trains on the western track between its existing terminus at Smallbrook Junction and Ryde St John’s Road, with trains being ‘topped and tailed’ (a locomotive at each end of the train).
It says it was considered not to be practical or cost-effective.
When Isle of Wight radio spoke to Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely, he touched on the issue.
“We have to find a route that the Steam Railway understand…to get the Steam Railway into Ryde St. John’s. That’s very important for the Steam Railway because they want to go to Ryde one end and Newport the other and it will help with tourism.”
“We understand the Steam Railway’s disappointment that necessary safety regulations around running wooden bodied heritage rolling stock alongside electric trains, and the large costs associated with separating the two operations, has meant it has not been possible for the Steam Railway to achieve its ambition to come in to Ryde St John’s at this stage.
“The Steam Railway is an important visitor attraction on the IoW and a key stakeholder for Island Line and we will continue to work hard to promote the interchange we have with them at Smallbrook Junction as well as look at other mutually beneficial opportunities that may arise in the future.”
The Steam Railway said,
“Our existing interchange at Smallbrook Junction will continue to provide public transport links with the mainland and we look forward to working with South Western Railway to develop and promote joint marketing opportunities.”