Island Line set to reopen on 1 November

  • 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!”

Iconic Isle of Wight trains reach the end of the line after 82 years

Today marks the end of an era as Isle of Wight residents prepare to bid an emotional farewell to Island Line’s famed and beloved 82-year-old trains.

The final Class 483 train will roll out of the iconic Ryde Pier Head Station at 23.17 this evening, closing a historic chapter for Island Line passengers and staff.

Every ending heralds a new beginning though, and Islanders can look forward to a major upgrade this spring with a new, fully refurbished fleet which will deliver a modern railway for the Isle of Wight.  

Old and new at Ryde depot - Island Line

The trains, which are estimated to have travelled in excess of 3 million miles in their 82 years, will enjoy a retirement which befits their cherished status. One will be heading to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, meaning that islanders and visitors alike will still have a chance to enjoy the old red train, while another unit goes to the London Traction Transport Group. Formed in May 2020, the Group hopes to run the train on the Epping Ongar Railway under its own power and even take it to rail galas across the country.

Commenting, South Western Railway’s Managing Director Mark Hopwood said:  
“Today we’re saying goodbye to a truly iconic train fleet which is held in great affection by people living on the Island and elsewhere.

“These trains had already been carrying passengers for half a century by the time they arrived on the Island in 1989, coincidentally the same year that I started my first job on the railway, but they have served our customers well – even if they have on occasion shown their age. This is in no small part thanks to the exceptional team at Ryde Depot, who have gone above and beyond to keep the trains running. 

“While this may be an emotional end to one era, it’s also the start of an exciting new one. The £26 million being invested in new trains and major infrastructure upgrades will help to deliver a railway fit for 2021, with performance and customer experience both set to be transformed. “ 

Steve Backhouse, General Manager at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway said:  
“The Isle of Wight Steam Railway already has a world-class collection of carriages dating back to the opening of the Ryde to Shanklin line in 1864. The 1938 stock have been an iconic feature of the Isle of Wight for the last 30 years and we’re delighted that a unit will be preserved at Havenstreet so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.” 

Daniel Nash, Secretary of the London Transport Traction Group, said: 
“80 years after delivery to London Transport,  we’re excited to be bringing unit 483006 back to a former tube line at the Epping Ongar Railway. We hope that enthusiasts who have not been able to make it to the Island today due to the current restrictions will support us and help us to keep one of these trains running in preservation. Although they have finished on the Island Line, this will not be the last chance to ride on one of the trains.”

The fleet of two-carriage trains were built back in 1938, serving the London Underground network before travelling across the Solent to the Isle of Wight in 1989, where they have been faithfully carrying passengers ever since. 

The Class 483's last maintenance fitters say goodbye to the train today

Maintenance Fitters at Ryde depot (L-R): Kieran Heatherington, Tony Long and Ian Butcher (Interim Depot Manager)

In keeping with tradition, the fleet set to replace the retiring trains are also former London Underground stock which previously served the District Line. This upgrade will give a major boost to reliability, comfort and convenience, with the fully refurbished trains boasting modern features such as free on-board WiFi, improved passenger information, at-seat charging points and wheelchair spaces. The first new train was welcomed onto the Island last month.

The new trains form part of a £26 million investment in Island Line, which will deliver 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. These major improvements will take place between 4 January and 31 March, during which time there will be no service on Island Line. A bus service will be replacing trains throughout the three months.  

All Change for Island Line – Competition to win Ryde Rail by Richard Long

Railcam is delighted to bring you another competition. This time, respected railway author, Richard Long has offered a copy of his book, Ryde Rail, to one lucky winner.

To enter, simply comment on the post on any of the Railcam, Facebook or Twitter posts by answering the following question:

How long is the Island line?

The winner will be drawn at random on Sunday 22 November 2020.

Ryde rail: A History of Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight by Richard Long Published by Crecy Publishing

Richard has kindly written the following piece for us to give an insight to the tube trains in use on the Island line. We would like to thank Richard for his time and generosity.

In January 1967 the Ryde-Shanklin line closed down completely before reopening three months later with a ‘new’ fleet of refurbished ex-London Underground trains.  54 years later, at the start of 2021, the same thing is to happen again.  The full story of those 54 years can be found in my book Ryde Rail: A History of Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight.  But why did the Isle of Wight end up with second-hand tube trains in the first place?

Unit 009 enters Ryde tunnel at the rear of a 4-car southbound train on 31 August 2009.

By the end of 1966 the Island’s former 55-mile network of railway lines had been whittled down to just eight-and-a-half miles of track between Ryde and Shanklin – which local campaigners had forced BR to retain.  Faced with a life-expired fleet of pre-Grouping steam engines and carriages BR concluded that modernisation was the only answer.  New-build rolling stock was out of the question on cost grounds so a decision was taken to electrify the line and employ a fleet of ex-London Underground ‘Standard Stock’ tube cars (to become BR classes 485 & 486).  These were ideal as they were more than suited to the Island’s notoriously restrictive loading gauge and, crucially, were readily available at scrap value.  Around 40 years-old in 1967, the Standard Stock were expected to last about 10 years on the Island but eventually lumbered on until replacements arrived in the form of the current 1938 Stock tube trains in 1989-92.

Already 50 years-old at the time of their arrival, the 1938 Stock (BR class 483) were probably even then the oldest (non-heritage) trains on the national network but, after 30 years on the Island, have now clocked-up eight decades of service.  Nine two-car units were originally delivered to Ryde but today only six sets survive; of which only two are currently operational – and that’s on a good day.  Two working units are required to maintain the two-trains-an-hour timetable meaning that, if one set fails (as has happened frequently in the past 12 months), the service drops to one-train-an-hour.

Unit 008 in platform 1 at Brading with a northbound service on 5 September 2013.  A passing loop is to be installed at this location.

SWR’s replacements for the 80-year-old trains will be the class 484 – a third rail electric version of Vivarail’s Class 230.  Re-engineered from former District Line ‘D Stock’ units these are once-again ex-London Underground trains but, crucially, they are LU ‘sub-surface’ stock (in other words, normal-sized UK trains) and not tube trains – disproving once-and-for-all the myth that only tube trains would fit on the Isle of Wight.  Five two-car units have been ordered; to be painted in SWR livery with ‘Island Line’ branding.  With fully-modernised interiors, disabled access and on-train wifi these will arguably be the closest thing to actual new trains the Island’s railways have experienced in well over a century.  Reportedly the first three units will arrive on the Island by Christmas although none are expected to enter traffic until the line reopens in April 2021.

Unsurprisingly some infrastructure modifications will be required for the new units to operate – including adjusting platform heights for step-free access and lowering the track under some overbridges.  Whether the track in Ryde Tunnel will be lowered remains to be seen – it hasn’t been mentioned and, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t the lowest structure on the line.  The worst sections of track are to be re-laid as well (the famously bouncy ride quality of the current stock probably owes as much to the condition of the track as to that of the trains.)  Perhaps the most significant improvement will be the laying of a passing loop at Brading; allowing a two-train service to run at a regular half-hourly interval, rather than the current 20/40-minute service.  (The present track layout, with no passing point at Brading, is the result of a rationalisation carried out by Network SouthEast in the 1980s, when three-trains-an-hour were operated.)

A CGI image released by Vivarail last year of a new Class 484 unit.

The 1938 Stock are expected to operate their final services on 3 January 2021, after which the line will close until 1 April, but will any survive into preservation?  One unit seems likely to remain on the Island as a static exhibit at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway while another group, the London Transport Traction Group, has been formed with the aim of operating a set under battery power on the Epping-Ongar Railway.  Whether any further units will find new homes remains to be seen. 

Whatever happens, the next few months will see exciting changes for the Ryde-Shanklin line; which enthusiasts should be able to witness first hand on Railcam’s new camera at Ryde. 

Richard Long is the author of Isle of Wight Railways: A New History ( and the bestselling Ryde Rail: A History of Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight (

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 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 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.