Former London Underground District Line trains swap the City for Island life

The first of the fully refurbished, high specification fleet arrives today, marking a significant milestone in the delivery of a modern railway for the Isle of Wight 

This afternoon (Thursday 19 November), amidst the usual mix of customers making their way over to the Isle of Wight, the 14:45 ferry pulled into Fishbourne Ferry Port carrying a rather different kind of passenger.  

Whilst cars, vans and lorries are very often seen boarding, it is rather rarer to see a train, on a lorry, on a ferry.  

With a major upgrade to Island Line underway, however, the arrival of the first of the new fleet of trains has been highly anticipated in advance of their entry into service in spring 2021. The delivery, which marks a major step towards a modern Island Line, has been in the works since September 2019, following the announcement of £26m of funding primarily from the Department for Transport (£25 million), with support from Isle of Wight Council (£300,000) and Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) (£700,000). 

Whilst the outside of the trains may look familiar – although in a different colour scheme – the inside will tell a different story, with a whole host of upgrades, new interiors and enhancements to the customer experience. The complete makeover also includes adding free on-board WiFi, significantly improving onboard passenger information, and providing charging sockets and wheelchair spaces.  

The newly refurbished train will operate alongside four others in the fleet, due to arrive on the island over the coming months. These trains, known as Class 484s, continue Island Line’s long-standing tradition of using refurbished and transformed former London Underground rolling stock. They will replace the existing 82-year old Class 483 fleet, which were originally built in 1938 for the London Underground, and have served Island Line since the late 1980s. 

New train arrives on the Isle of Wight

The new trains – which previously served London’s District Line, delivering customers to popular events and locations such as the tennis at Wimbledon and the museums in Kensington, not to mention the heart of the City – are being built by English rolling stock manufacturer, Vivarail, based in Long Marston in Warwickshire.  

For those hoping for a sneak peak of what it will feel like inside the new trains, Vivarail have created a virtual tour of the train interior which can be viewed here 

Alongside the modern fleet, Island Line will soon benefit from a number of infrastructure and station improvements including: the installation of a new passing loop at Brading, allowing for a service at regular 30-minute intervals; track enhancement work to improve ride quality; and adjustments to platform heights to improve accessibility. 

In order to complete these improvement works, Island Line will be closed from 4 January 2021 until 31 March 2021, with replacement buses operating instead. Following these works, the new trains will be introduced into service. 

For more information on the improvements we’re making to Island Line, head to southwesternrailway.com/islandupgrade   

Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of South Western Railway said: “Island Line customers are going to notice a real improvement with the introduction of this new fleet, improving journeys for the future. 

“The Class 483s have proven to be the workhorse of the railway, but these newer trains will help modernise the rail experience on the Isle of Wight for years to come. 

“This is the first major step towards a better railway for the island, and we are now only a matter of months away before the trains enter service.”  

Rail Minister Chris Heaton Harris said:“It’s great to finally see this long-awaited, welcome improvement, that will bring the Island Line into the modern era.  

“Passengers on the Island Line will benefit from the new fleet’s more comfortable and reliable services, whilst still being able to enjoy the unique charm that has become a hallmark of the island’s railway.” 

Rachael Randall, Solent LEP Director, said: “The arrival of the first of the new trains is a major milestone in our work with South Western Railway to improve connectivity on the Island. We now need to ensure that local communities can get the best possible use of this new fleet, with a regular service aligned with other transport options, and I am delighted to be able to confirm the LEPs £700,000 Local Growth Deal investment into the Island Line to make this possible. This will ensure that the service is sustainable and can operate for the benefit of Island commuters for years to come.” 

Bob Seely, Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight, said: “I am delighted to welcome the first of these trains to the Island. This is good news for residents, commuters, students and the tourism industry who can now look forward to a much better passenger experience from next May onwards. 

“Today marks an important milestone in the overall improvement of rail provision and connectivity from Shanklin all the way through to the mainland. We will see half-hourly trains throughout the day, starting earlier and finishing later to provide a more comprehensive service. 

“Along with the Isle of Wight Council, the Solent LEP, KILF and various other interest groups, we convinced the Government to back this multi-million pound investment in Island Line, which – together with the forthcoming work to Ryde Railway Pier – amounts to the biggest upgrade the route has seen in over 50 years. I am also grateful to South Western Railway who have remained committed to delivering these improvements, despite the significant difficulties of recent months. 

“Like many Islanders, I look forward to travelling on the trains once they are fully operational.” 

Councillor Ian Ward, Cabinet member for transport and infrastructure at the Isle of Wight Council, said: “We welcome this investment in Island Line by South Western Railway which will usher in a new era of travel on this important railway line. 

“The new Class 484 trains will offer rail passengers travelling between Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin more comfort, greater capacity, better accessibility and modern features such as USB charging, passenger information systems and free on-board WiFi. 

“This is in stark contrast to the current trains being used on the Isle of Wight which are older than some of the trains running on the heritage steam railway. 

“We look forward to seeing the Class 484 trains in action next year, together with a new passing loop at Brading which will enable Island Line to run a service at regular 30-minute intervals, providing better connections to ferries to the mainland.” 

Adrian Shooter, CEO Vivarail said: “The Class 484s are an excellent addition to our suite of emission-free trains and we are delighted that they are heading to Island Line.  The air on the Isle of Wight seems to suit trains so perhaps these will continue the venerable tradition of the Class 483s and keep passengers and tourists moving for decades to come.” 

Railcam’s Andy went down to Portsmouth to see the first unit arrive. Here are his pictures. And our view from Ryde cam of the unit on the ferry.

There is also a video of the first coach arriving at Portsmouth that can be viewed here

Railcams ticket to Ryde – New cameras and the chance to win a weekend at the Royal Esplanade Hotel!

Railcam UK is delighted to announce the latest location to its ever-increasing portfolio which is being launched with an incredible competition prize! Full details are at the end of this article.

To enter, you need to share the social media post from Railcam on either Facebook or Twitter and follow our YouTube channel where these streams will be a permanent addition.

The latest addition sees Railcam joining with the Royal Esplanade Hotel at Ryde on the Isle of Wight. The Royal Esplanade hotel is a characterful Victorian Grade II Listed building that has been lovingly and sympathetically restored by its current owners. It offers a range of rooms to suit most budgets, from smaller Classic rooms through to larger Superior Sea View rooms, all rooms have ensuite facilities.

The main entrance to the Royal Esplanade Hotel, Ryde, Isle of Wight

Royal Esplanade Hotel General Manager, Bobby Oddy said:

“We are delighted to be hosting these cameras for Railcam UK. To share this view over the Solent with the World is exciting and can only encourage more people to come and visit our wonderful hotel and island.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Railcam for letting us be part of this exciting project and we look forward to welcoming you all to the Royal Esplande Hotel”

You can email info@royalesplanadehotel.co.uk or call on 01983 3562549 for booking inquiries.

The first camera, Ryde Esplanade & Pier , will be a localised view that will focus on Ryde Pier and the South Western Railway operated Island line with its class 483, 1938 ex tube stock trains. These will soon be replaced by 5 class 484 ex D78 underground stock which have been converted by Vivarail. The new trains are due to begin service in April 2021 after a 3-month blockade to update the line.

SWR Island line Class 483 Ex 1938 tube stock on Ryde Pier

The camera will also give great views of the Hovercraft landings and departures, Wightlink Fastcat arrivals and departures, and the busy bus stand to make this an unprecedented transport enthusiasts haven.

The second camera, Ryde Pier & The Solent Scenic Camera, will be providing much wider views of the Solent including the commercial, cruise, and naval shipping movements that operate into Portsmouth and Southampton. The camera will operate on a pre-programmed sequence to take in as much as possible from this exceptional location on the hotel roof.

A few months ago some of the Railcam team visited the Island to get a last run on the old tube stock before its retirement. During their stay, a temporary, “Pop Up” camera via an Ipad ran for two days. This was streamed via our YouTube channel and proved to be so popular that it gave birth to the idea of a permanent camera being set up.

The view from the Railcam test run

Adrian Bradshaw, Railcam Director said:

“After our team visited Ryde recently and live-streamed the wonderful view from the Royal Esplanade Hotel, we were inundated with people asking if we could do something permanent there. We are delighted to be able to do just that, with not one, but two live cameras offering stunning views of trains, hovercraft and shipping…”

In addition to the two new cameras, Railcam is delighted to announce that it will now be featuring the Isle of Wight Steam Railway webcams on its main site. This is a fabulous addition to the heritage section and is perfect timing with our Ryde cameras launch.

Isle of Wight Steam railway webcams will now be available via the Railcam uk site

General manager Steve Backhouse said:

“Our webcams are already a very popular feature on our website. We’re excited that these will be available to a wider audience via the Railcam website, and look forward to welcoming more digital visitors to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.”

To launch the exciting addition of Ryde cameras, Railcam UK is delighted to offer one lucky winner a stay at the Royal Esplanade Hotel.

The winner will receive return tickets from London Waterloo to Portsmouth courtesy of South Western Railway.

Departing from the cathedral-like station of Waterloo our winners will be able to sit back and relax as South Western Railway takes you through the busy Clapham Junction, Surrey and Hampshire countryside and arriving at Portsmouth Harbour in around 2 hours.

We believe the fastest and easiest route for rail enthusiasts is from Portsmouth Harbour Station to Ryde Pier with the Island line Station. To accommodate this Wightlink Ferries have kindly offered two return tickets on their Fastcat service.

The journey takes just 22 minutes and will leave the winners with a gentle walk along the pier to the hotel.

Two nights B&B in a Superior Double Sea View room at the Royal Esplanade Hotel, Ryde for dates in March 2021.

Use the Royal esplanade as your base and jump on the bus just outside to go exploring! Sadly the Island line is likely to still be under its upgrade blockade but you may just get to see test runs and engineering work taking place. There are many places to explore including the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.

To complete the package, what could be better than a Railcam goody bag? worth over £100, containing – Hoodie, Tassel Scarf, Gloves, T-shirt, Bag Baseball Cap, Thermal mug, Pen. Keyring, 10-year anniversary pin badge. (Items subject to change)

To be in with a chance of winning this prize you must be aged over 18, UK resident, and share the social media post from Railcam on either Facebook or Twitter and follow our YouTube channel. We really would like to see you use #RailcamRyde too but that’s not essential.

Competition rules:

The prizes are kindly donated by The Royal Esplanade Hotel, Ryde, Wightlink ferries, and South Western Railway and are not transferable.

The winner must be available for the agreed dates in March 2021.

No cash alternative is available.

The winner will be drawn at random and announced on Sunday 15th November.

The winner must contact admin@railcam.uk within 24 hours to claim the prize or it will be redrawn.

Expenses for additional travel, accommodation and food is the winners liability and will not be covered by Railcam UK.

Railcam UK decision is final in all aspects and no correspondence will be entered into.

Railcam UK reserve the right to cancel the competition without reason at any stage.

Update on Ryde cameras

Railcam UK are delighted to announce that the new cameras are now in position and under test.

Our installers attended last weekend and battled through some inclement weather conditions to complete the job before a second national Covid 19 lockdown could delay the project.

We should hopefully be going “Live” this weekend once we are happy with the quality and sequences.

To whet your appetite, here are a few teasers from the cameras.

Looking across the Solent to the Spinnaker tower and Portsmouth harbour entrance
Southampton docks and Cruise terminal
One of the Solent’s forts
Looking over Appley Beach