£26 million of government money is going to be invested in upgrading and transforming the Isle of Wight's rail network.
The Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has announced the cash is being allocated to make improvements to train services on the island.
It's due to be the biggest upgrade to the local network for more than fifty years.
The news has been welcomed by Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely:
“When I became the Island’s MP, I pledged to make sure the Island was listened to by Whitehall.
“This is really great news for the Island and long over-due. With the support of local campaign groups, I have relentlessly made the case for securing the future of Island Line.
“I am pleased that yet again, the Government will be investing in the Isle of Wight, and I thank the Rail Minister for visiting the Island today to make this announcement with South Western Railway.
“This represents the first significant upgrade to the route for over 50 years (since electrification in 1967), and I look forward to liaising with SWR, Network Rail and the DfT to ensure that the benefits are delivered in a timely manner, with minimal disruption. Island Line serves residents, commuters, visitors and students on a daily basis – and I know how much these rail users will welcome this overdue investment.
“I am also pleased that a new passing loop will be introduced at Brading. This will improve connectivity with cross-Solent sailings at peak times, and complements the allocated funding from Network Rail to renew Ryde Railway Pier.
“I support the ambitions for steam trains to return to Ryde St Johns, and I will continue to work with the award-winning Isle of Wight Steam Railway to see how their practical proposals to achieve this can be delivered. I also support viability schemes to investigate the possibility of getting the Island line extended.”
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.”
Andy Mellors, Managing Director of South Western Railway, 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. I look forward to our continuing partnership as we deliver the next exciting chapter in Island Line’s history.”
(Above: Island line trains - pictures credited to South Western Railway)
Isle of Wight Council leader Dave Stewart said:
"I am really pleased to welcome the decision by the Department for Transport to invest millions into Island Line. Today’s announcement follows a long and detailed process involving South Western Railway, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, the Isle of Wight Council and our MP Bob Seely aimed at securing a long term solution to Island Line.
"Islanders can now look forward to new electric trains, major infrastructure improvement and track upgrades, including a passing loop at Brading, enabling the synchronisation of services with the ferries - all of which supports our desire for sustainable and environmental friendly contribution to our Island connectivity.
"This is great news for the Island, great news for South Western Railway and most importantly great news for the users of Island Line. A big thanks to the government for listening and supporting the island once again."
Wightlink's also welcomed the news.
The ferry company's Chief Executive Keith Greenfield said:
“This investment will bring about a significant improvement to Island Line and therefore transport on and off the Island. As the Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said today, the money will mean better, more reliable trains and a timetable that connects better with our ferry services. That is great news for travellers.
“Today’s announcement marks the culmination of much hard work by many people and organisations including South Western Railway, the Isle of Wight Council and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as well as Island MP Bob Seely.
“Wightlink will continue to work with our partners to ensure our services are part of a high quality and sustainable integrated transport network to and from the Island.”