Aug 2022 – Isle of Wight.

The Isle of Wight’s railways were decimated by the Beeching cuts (and earlier closures), leaving only the line from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin. Since then, the IoW Steam Railway has reopened the section from Smallbrook Junction on the Ryde line to Wootton, and in May 2020, the Island Council received up to £50,000 from the Restoring Your Railways programme to prepare a feasibility study for restoring rail links between Newport and Ryde, and from Ventnor to Shanklin. Surprisingly though, the former of these two routes is not via Haven Street, where the heritage line is based, but along the trackbed of the old Newport – Sandown line, via Blackwater. Much of this is currently a cycleway and footpath. This facility would be retained next to the reopened line. Buildings on the trackbed at Wroxall make the Ventnor option highly unlikely. The Isle of Wight’s MP, Bob Seely, admitted that ‘there are also some substantial issues which would need to be resolved to enable the return of railway services to Ventnor, but these are not insurmountable.’ The business case looks at the potential impact improved rail links could have, given that the only easy access to the mainland is via Ryde, whereas the economic hub of the island is Newport, which is not rail-connected. The Council has plans to develop Newport Harbour and sees the railway as an integral part of that. Meanwhile, Ventnor could be opened up to greater business and tourist use if the line from Shanklin was reopened to the town. Lowering carbon emissions yet at the same time improving transport links makes rail a very attractive option once more. (Tim Stannard, RR)