Island Line

South Western Railway – which runs the Island Line -could have its franchise stripped or become nationalised, according to reports.

The firm is in talks with the Department for Transport “regarding potential commercial and contractual remedies for the franchise and what happens next”.

Mark Hopwood took over as managing director of the firm two days ago – with a pledge to “drive through change and make a positive impact for South Western Railway passengers”.

Mark said:

“Frankly, our service has not been good enough in recent months and years.

“We will focus on changes that can make an immediate difference to the number of trains running on time.”

In addition to Mark joining the business, the company has brought together performance, operations and customer experience functions under the Chief Operating Officer Mike Houghton.

Mike said:

“We can’t achieve all this alone.  Many of the problems we face are caused by the infrastructure, so I have agreed with Network Rail at the very highest levels that we will work hard together to address these issues.”

As reported by Isle of Wight Radio, last year it was announced the Island Line will see a £26 million investment, with trains due to be upgraded this year to include Wi-Fi.

One of Mark’s pledges as MD is:

“To introduce new and refurbished trains, that will allow us to bring in new and more reliable services, and to roll out more Wi-Fi, toilets on trains and other things passengers tell us they want.”

A spokesperson for South Western Railway told Isle of Wight Radio:

“We are continuing to focus on performance for our customers and are getting on with delivering our plans for 2020, including our plans for the Island Line.  The situation we’ve outlined doesn’t change that at all.

” We continue to be in ongoing and constructive discussions with the DfT regarding potential commercial and contractual remedies for the franchise and what happens next, in order to ensure we reach the right outcome for the Government, our shareholders and our customers. As set out previously, FirstGroup and MTR have already provided for the maximum unavoidable loss.”

MP for the Isle of Wight Bob Seely told Isle of Wight Radio:

“The last conversation I had with the Secretary of State for Transport about Island Line and transport on the Island was this afternoon” (Wednesday).”

Mr Seely added,

“I have put down a written question asking the Secretary of State make a statement on the future of South Western Railway and the forthcoming investment in Island Line.

“I will be seeking confirmation that the Government will take any necessary action to ensure that scheduled services are unaffected.

“With regard to Island Line, the £26 million secured in September was signed off by the Department of Transport – as it is essentially government investment – and therefore I have no reason to believe that it will not go ahead, as planned.”