Rail line and infrastructure upgrade
The Island Line and its associated infrastructure on the Isle of Wight in the UK are being upgraded to offer a more frequent service and introduce more trains.
The rail line runs between Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin, passing through Small brook Junction, Brading, Sandown, and Lake stations.
The upgrade project involves the launch of a refurbished fleet of Class 484 trains and improvements to rail infrastructure, including creating level access from the train to the station platform.
British train operating company South Western Railway (SWR) operates the island railway line through its subsidiary Island Line. It announced a £26m ($35.9m) major upgrade to Island Line in September 2019, in partnership with the UK Government’s Department for Transport, ensuring the line’s long-term future.
The arrival of the first of the completely refurbished, high-specification Class 484 trains in November 2020 marked a significant milestone in the upgrade project. The trains will undergo extensive testing and trial runs before entering commercial service.
In April 2021, SWR disclosed that the overhaul of the Isle of Wight railway line will not be completed until at least mid-2021 due to a delay in the delivery of the new fleet of trains caused by complex software issues. The upgrade works are also being delayed by the Covid-19-induced restrictions.
The Island Line upgrade will introduce a new and reliable fleet of Class 484 trains to the network. The Ryde St Johns depot in Ryde, Isle of Wight, was renovated to accommodate the new trains through the provision of a new crane and high-tech software for the maintenance of the fleet.
As part of the upgrade, SWR elevated platforms or lowered tracks at five stations to improve accessibility and decrease the gap between train and platform.
The project also involved cutting, re-joining, and adjusting the rails on more than 10.46km of railway, along with the installation of new sleepers and rail at different locations on the Shanklin-Ryde St Johns section.
New electricity and signalling cables and equipment were installed across the rail line to improve the line’s resilience and efficiency. The power supply to the line was also upgraded.
A new passing loop was developed at Brading station, to enable trains to pass each other and facilitate a regular service with a frequency of 30 minutes, which will improve connections with Wightlink ferries.
The three upgraded stations at Shanklin, Sandown, and Ryde St Johns Road will have new ticket vending machines, while free Wi-Fi will be made available at all Island Line stations.
Five newly refurbished Class 484 trains will replace the 82-year-old Class 483 fleet which is operational on the Island Line.
The existing Class 483 fleet, which was constructed for the London Underground in 1938, has been serving the Island Line since the late 1980s.
The modern fleet of underground two-car trains is being refurbished by British rolling stock manufacturer Vivarail at its Long Marston plant in Warwickshire.
Class 484 trains are being given a facelift with several upgrades, modern and spacious interiors, and modifications to enhance the passenger experience.
The two-carriage trains will have connected gangways, which will enable free movement of guards inside the train to allow them to collect ticket revenues.
Each train will offer increased comfort, greater capacity, improved connectivity, free onboard Wi-Fi, improved onboard passenger information screens, recharging sockets accessible from every seat, wheelchair spaces, and call for aid buttons.
The Island Line upgrade project is funded by the Department for Transport, which committed £25m ($33.1m), and Solent Local Enterprise Partnership and the Isle of Wight Council, which are providing £700,000 ($929,115) and £300,000 ($398,192) respectively.
OSL Global, a UK-based rail engineering and signalling company, was selected to deliver the upgrade of the Island Line under a Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) design and build contract.
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is working with South Western Railway to upgrade the electricity network on the Isle of Wight railway line.
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