Is it really such great news for the Island that its 80-year-old trains are finally being replaced?

Islander magazine spoke to Roger Berrisford (pictured), spokesman for Light Rail Isle of Wight, who believes that there is a better option available in the form of a light railway.

Roger is seriously concerned about the overall install and ongoing costs of maintaining five ex-London Underground (D78) Class 484 trains from VivaRail, even though they will undergo refurbishment. The trains are 40 years old and will not help the Isle of Wight Council achieve its regeneration objectives. 

Roger said: “Introducing these trains could prove to be a fatal error. This scheme has not been looked into properly and does not have the Island’s best interest at heart.

Roger was concerned about MP Robert Seely’s support for the scheme. He continued: “It is truly shocking that our MP’s highest aspirations for the Island’s rail service is to support the cheapest option of more second-hand, old London trains, when far more sustainable new light trains could be available within a similar timescale and be even cheaper. Clearly, he doesn’t believe Islanders deserve any better?

“He appears to have taken his cue from a former Council Leader, now Tory chairman, who has also campaigned for more old, second-hand London trains, and it is time for the Islanders to ask ‘why’.

“Our proposals would have delivered a 15-minute service using six new lightweight trains, which could, in future, be extended to relink towns such as Newport and Cowes.”

The light rail option offers the Island a modern, greener, more frequent train service.

In 2017, Light Rail Isle of Wight (LRIoW) put forward proposals to the Isle of Wight Council that the Island Line be upgraded to an easily extendable, new light rail system. The new service would have seen the introduction of lightweight trains and would also have completely transformed Ryde, opening up the seafront at Ryde Esplanade to make it accessible along its full length. 

As much as £20m could have been saved by introducing new trains, the development of which is fully supported by the Office of Road and Rail and the DfT, who wish to make branch line rail services far more sustainable and are keen to allocate them to branch lines like Island Line.

Will the introduction of the ex-London underground trains turn out to be another floating bridge fiasco? Only time will tell.

Colin Clarke
Author: Colin Clarke