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UK’s oldest train fleet to be replaced

UK News | Published:

The trains have served passengers for more than 80 years.

Trains on the Isle of Wight have served passengers since 1938 (John Faulkner/Isle of Wight Steam Railway Archive/PA)

The UK’s oldest train fleet is to be replaced through a £26 million investment into the Isle of Wight’s railway, the Government has announced.

Former London Underground trains built more than 80 years ago will stop serving passengers on the 8.5-mile Island Line between Ryde and Shanklin.

South Western Railway (SWR), which operates services on the route, has chosen manufacturer Vivarail to refurbish trains from the capital’s District line which will offer more capacity, better disabled access, passenger information systems and wi-fi.

The trains were chosen as the Island Line has size restrictions similar to the Tube network.

The first of the five two-carriage electric-powered trains will arrive on the island for testing in summer 2020.

Track improvements will take place over the following winter.

An upgrade in the infrastructure of the railway is also being carried out, with a new passing loop at Brading allowing a half-hourly service to Ryde pier, where ferry services offer a connection with Portsmouth.

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Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “These trains have diligently served passengers since 1938 – coinciding with the first ever edition of the Beano and the maiden voyage of the record-setting Mallard steam train – so this upgrade is a long overdue boost.

“This investment in the Island Line means more punctual, reliable trains and better connections to ferry services, supporting local residents, businesses and tourism.

“This underlines our determination to provide passengers across the country with the modern rail network they expect.”

The future of the existing rolling stock is undecided.

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SWR managing director Andy Mellors said: “This is a great day for the Isle of Wight. I want to pay tribute to our team at Island Line who have kept the current 1938 stock going for so long and to all of the stakeholders who helped us develop our proposals.”

Isle of Wight Council leader Dave Stewart said: “This is great news for the island, great news for South Western Railway and most importantly great news for the users of Island Line.”

Office of Rail and Road figures show more than 275,000 entries and exits were recorded at Shanklin station in 2017/18, the busiest station on the Island Line.

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