As a postscript to my previous letter (CP, 26/11/21) your readers may not be familiar with the proposals for Isle of Wight railway extensions, for which a feasibility study was carried out last year.

In summary, the feasibility work was done by London-based transport consultants. It was commissioned and supervised by the Isle of Wight Council, using money from DfT’s “Restoring your Railway Fund”.

The main objectives last year were to analyse options for railway extensions and establish a viable business case. Three desirable railway projects were identified, as follows:

Phase 1: Sandown to Newport (via Blackwater);

Phase 2: Shanklin to Ventnor (via Wroxall);

Phase 3: Newport to Cowes (via St Mary’s Hospital).

The analysis showed that Phases 1 and 2 are easier “to route”. (Phase 3 is tricky.) Helpfully, Phases 1 and 2 “piggy-back” existing investments. That is, £26m spent on the Island Line, and £30m committed for upgrade of Ryde Pier (and Pierhead).

To my knowledge, a bid for Phase 1 funding now sits with central government. On which basis, I assume Isle of Wight Council and MP Bob Seely are pressing DfT for early progress.

If implemented, the railway extensions will create fast connections between more towns across Isle of Wight (and reduce road traffic).

They will also make Ryde Pierhead accessible to many more Isle of Wight residents, for rapid connection to national rail and bus services at Portsmouth Harbour.

An extended railway network also offers easy access into the Isle of Wight for visitors, commuters, and businesses. As night follows day, new railways bring jobs and investment.

For the time-being, the restored Island Line (as it is now) needs two or preferably three trains per hour in both directions, to establish a credible service.

Of importance, South Western Railway’s timetable for Island Line must ensure efficient workable time-slot connections with Wightlink‘s catamarans at Ryde Pierhead. (That is a “must have”.)

To achieve this, if the new passing loop at Brading isn’t essential, I expect it will come into its own later.

The Isle of Wight needs more low-carbon, fast-moving, rail-based public transport. Right now, there is much to play for.

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