The upgraded Island Line is due to reopen on 1 November
A series of complications have delayed the £26m project, but the new trains and enhanced infrastructure will transform the customer experience
South Western Railway (SWR) has announced that the upgraded Island Line is set to reopen on 1 November.
Once reopened, customers will return to a transformed Island Line, with new trains running along upgraded infrastructure and through improved stations.
The new trains will significantly improve the customer experience, with upgrades ranging from better interiors to plug sockets, free WiFi and wheelchair spaces.
As well as testing the new trains, SWR staff have been busy improving the rail infrastructure and stations on the Island. Amongst other enhancements, the Island Line tracks have been upgraded to ensure customers can enjoy a smoother ride.
The £26 million project, which has been funded by the Department for Transport, Isle of Wight Council and Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, has regrettably taken longer to complete than first anticipated. This has been due to several factors including train testing complications, the pandemic and even the flash flooding which engulfed the Isle of Wight earlier this summer.
During testing, the new Class 484 Island Line trains have been affected by software issues, which SWR and train supplier Vivarail have made good progress in solving through further testing. The final phase of testing is key to the delivery of a safe and reliable railway.
The first passenger train will depart Ryde St Johns Road station at 05:35, calling at Ryde Esplanade at 05:39 and Ryde Pier Head at 05:41. The train will then head back down the line, departing Ryde Pier Head at 05:45, and arriving into Shanklin at 06:10.
Commenting, Claire Mann, Managing Director of South Western Railway, said: “We are really pleased that the Island Line is set to reopen on 1 November.
“When the Island Line reopens, the new trains and upgraded infrastructure will give a real boost to the customer experience, delivering the modern, punctual and accessible railway that people expect and deserve.
“We are sorry that this project has taken longer to deliver than we first hoped, with a series of complications sadly delaying re-opening. However, we are confident that the transformed Island Line will be worth wait, and we are so excited to welcome locals and visitors back onboard!”
A special ‘Climate Train’ will operate between the Netherlands and Scotland today carrying passengers to COP26, the international climate change conference in Glasgow.
Rail companies across Europe unite with Youth for Sustainable Travel for special train to COP26
Service will begin at Amsterdam, bringing delegations and youth activists from across the continent to Glasgow for COP26
Journey will showcase importance of rail travel in battle against climate change
A special ‘Climate Train’ will operate between the Netherlands and Scotland today carrying passengers to COP26, the international climate change conference in Glasgow, thanks to a partnership between Avanti West Coast, Eurostar, NS, ProRail and Youth for Sustainable Travel.
Official delegations from the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Germany will join young people, MEPs, and NGOs such as Friends of the Earth and Oxfam, to enjoy one of the more sustainable ways to travel between the continent and COP26.
With a passenger’s carbon footprint from one flight between Amsterdam and London the equivalent of seven Eurostar journeys1, there are significant carbon savings to be made by improving access to fast, seamless rail connections between the UK and the continent.
Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “Our railways are one of the most sustainable ways for people to travel. As we host the world at COP26, I’m proud that our railway is playing its part in the fight against climate change. We are committed to achieving a net zero rail network by 2050, ensuring our railways continue to play a pivotal role in enabling greener, cleaner journeys for passengers.”
Executive Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, who will be in Brussels-Midi station to send the train off this Saturday, said: “Taking the train to the climate summit in Glasgow is without a doubt the most climate friendly way for delegations to travel there. The train is sustainable and provides plenty of comfort, whether you travel for work or for pleasure. Moreover, inside Europe, the train is fast becoming an increasingly attractive alternative for flying, especially on shorter distances. I wish all travellers on the Climate Train an enjoyable journey and most of all I wish them plenty of success at the summit – we will see each other in Glasgow next week!”
Whilst travelling at 186mph between Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels and London, youth activists will come together with politicians and rail experts to debate and exchange ideas, tackling topics such as how to accelerate the modal shift towards sustainable travel and how innovation in rail can support this.
On arrival in the UK, delegates will make their way between St Pancras and Euston via London’s first “Wellbeing Walk” – an alternative walking route which aims to avoid high levels of pollution on the busier roads.
One of Avanti West Coast’s iconic Pendolinos, which is carrying delegates on the London to Glasgow part of the journey, has been fully wrapped with a unique sustainability design to celebrate the Climate Train journey. One flight between London and Glasgow is also the equivalent of almost seven train journeys. 2
A competition will be launched on social media to name the train to go alongside the design which was applied with the support of train builder Alstom, Aura Graphics and rolling stock company Angel Trains who own and invest in the Pendolino fleet.
Watch time lapse footage of the Climate Train being wrapped here
To mark the departure of the Climate Train, rail partners across Continental Europe have signed a message to COP26 – pledging to remain the most sustainable form of motorised transport, with a call for greater support for international rail routes in order to accelerate growth in sustainable travel.
Train operators in Britain also support the UK government’s commitment to deliver a net zero railway network by 2050, which research shows could create almost 6,000 long-term jobs, and to remove all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040.
Jacques Damas, Chief Executive Officer, Eurostar said: “Pre pandemic, demand for international high-speed rail had grown consistently across two decades, as passengers increasingly recognise the benefits of train versus plane. As an industry, our challenge is to take this further, helping our customers lower their carbon footprint as we invest in routes, timetables and a seamless customer experience. The Climate Train is a symbol of partnership between rail operators and a show of commitment to meet growing customer expectations when it comes to sustainable travel. “
Phil Whittingham, Managing Director, Avanti West Coast said: “Climate change is a serious threat to everyone on the planet and Avanti West Coast, like the wider rail industry, is committed to cleaner, greener transport for all. By uniting with operators across the continent, the Climate Train’s journey illustrates the ease of travelling between countries providing customers with a sustainable alternative.
“But our commitment goes beyond COP26. For example, in the next few years we will be replacing our diesel only trains with a combination of electric and bi-mode trains that will substantially reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment.”
The Climate Train concept was initiated by not-for-profit organisation Youth for Sustainable Travel and Dutch rail infrastructure manager ProRail, and became a reality thanks to collaboration with carriers Eurostar, NS and Avanti West Coast. It benefits from the financial support of all Infrastructure managers on the route (Infrabel, SNCF Réseau, Getlink, HS1) as well as SNCB and EWS Schönau. The initiative is also supported by CER – the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies, EIM – European Rail Infrastructure Managers and UIC – the International Union of Railways as part of the EU Year of Rail.
Network Rail’s air operations team have successfully flown a drone Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) for 25 kilometres over dry land – believed to be the furthest such civilian drone flight in Britain.
The proof-of-concept flight – which took place yesterday (Wednesday 27 October) from Bicester along the East West Railway – is the culmination of 18 months of work. It is a significant step forward in terms of how drones can be used to inspect the railway safely, quickly and cost-effectively.
Drones and helicopters have long been used by Network Rail to identify faults on the railway, helping to predict and prevent failures to reduce disruption for passengers, while also representing a safer form of maintenance by limiting the number of manual inspections that need to be carried out by foot.
Until now, drones were only ever flown above the railway when they were in clear sight of the operator, and usually only for four or five kilometres at a time. While this can still be a helpful tool to inspect Britain’s rail infrastructure, it requires the team involved to set up multiple times at different locations. The ability to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight enables the air operations team to inspect the railway over a much larger area while saving valuable time and costs.
Rikke Carmichael, Network Rail’s head of air operations, said: “While flying Beyond Visual Line of Sight will ultimately provide us with much greater capability, it is worth emphasising that this was a proof-of-concept flight, and that a shift to using BVLOS as business as usual will take some time.
“Nonetheless, yesterday was an important milestone and I’d like to thank my team for all their hard work on this project over the last couple of years. We’ll now turn our attention to agreeing a strategy for using drones both VLOS and BVLOS, after which we will want to engage with industry for the next exciting phase of BVLOS becoming another routine service the Air Ops team provides the business.”
A Network Rail helicopter also flew alongside the drone to test whether or not the two could work together, and whether their respective systems recognised each other. It was proved that they did work effectively together. Data captured by the helicopter will be used to create a ‘digital twin’ of the railway that was flown over.
Northern has underlined its commitment to protecting public money by saving more than £10m in fraudulently claimed refunds in the past 18 months.
The train operator, which has been publicly owned since March 2020, has its own specialist team of investigators and is also working with colleagues at Trainline to stamp out refund fraud.
Fraudulently claimed refunds cost the industry tens of millions of pounds each year, money which could otherwise have been reinvested in delivering further improvements for customers.
To tackle the issue, Northern’s own team of investigators and colleagues at Trainline have been working hard to identify offenders and block fake claims.
Jason Wade, Head of Retail Operations at Northern, said: “Our customers are at the heart of all we do and we want to ensure we are able to reinvest as much money as possible into making the improvements those customers want to see across the Northern network.
“Sadly, all too often, our investigators find there are those who try to make fake refund claims to effectively steal public money from the railway. This doesn’t just harm Northern as an operator, it means those funds are then not available to put back into making the network the best it can be.”
“We have to stay one step ahead of people trying to make fraudulent claims and our team, together with our partners at Trainline, are constantly developing new methods of identifying fake claims and then blocking future claims from offenders.
“This approach has meant that in the past 18 months we have been able to prevent more than £10m of public money being lost to fraudulent claims.”
Champa Magesh, President at Trainline Partner Solutions, said: “Working with Northern to reduce fraud has meant we are saving taxpayer money and helping our partner reinvest these funds for the good of their customers.
“This reinvestment will, ultimately, help make the train travel experience for rail users in the North even more seamless, encouraging more people to choose the train over other less sustainable forms of transport.”
The work being carried out to tackle fake claims goes hand-in-hand with Northern’s other revenue protection activity which is all aimed at ensuring vital funds are retained by the railway to allow for further investment and improvements.
Jason added: “Fraud and ticketless travel are, thankfully, carried out by a small minority of people, but the impact is wide-ranging and far from victimless.
“It is fare-paying customers who bear the brunt of these crimes as the resulting financial implications can mean money has to be diverted from planned enhancements.
“All at Northern are determined to deliver our vision of making a positive impact for the North and we will continue to carry out all necessary work to protect the public money that is so vital in making this a reality.”