Island Line trains will not run up Ryde Pier until at least July, marking yet another delay to Network Rail’s improvement project and a big blow for the tourism season – plus it has been announced the line will close again towards the end of 2023.
South Western Railway (SWR) and Network Rail confirmed last night that Ryde Pier will reopen to trains on Monday 10th July – a whole month later than most recently anticipated. It means that the line will remain closed during the Isle of Wight Festival and at a key part of the tourism season.
The railway line between Ryde Esplanade and Ryde Pier Head has been closed since October last year to allow engineers to strengthen the 686-metre-long Victorian pier to give it another 60 years of operational life. It was hoped that the line would re-open in early Spring, but this was then pushed back to ‘late Spring’.
A date of 10th June had been set, but that has been shelved and replaced with the new date of 10th July.
Track and steelwork replacements have been completed, as well as the installation of a new weather screen. However, in recent weeks, engineers have been forced to revise their designs in 1 of the pier’s 6 different zones, changing the components used to secure new rails and sleepers.
The redesign, and the sourcing and supply of new components at a critical point in the programme, has added complexity to an already challenging project. As a result, the reopening date has been moved back by a month.
Until that date, 2 trains an hour will operate between Ryde Esplanade and Shanklin stations, with a minibus service helping customers travel from Ryde Pier Head to Ryde Esplanade. SWR has confirmed it will increase the capacity of the minibus service during the Isle of Wight Festival.
In any eventuality, the station improvement works at Ryde Esplanade won’t be completed any time soon, with passengers having to wait somewhat longer for the new toilets, cafe and improved look. The new bus station and associated roadworks outside the station are nearing completion.
Alex Foulds, SWR’s Projects and Change Director, has said:
“We know just how important the Island Line is to local businesses and the local community, which is why we aimed to reopen the line between Ryde Pier Head and Ryde Esplanade in time for the Isle of Wight Festival. We’re sorry we haven’t been able to meet that target.
“We always knew this would be a challenging project for a number of reasons. This is the world’s second longest pier and it was designed and constructed in the Victorian era, using five different designs. Our focus now is to ensure that the pier is ready for the school holidays and to resume train services along the length of the Island Line as soon as possible.”
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Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Wessex Route Director, said:
“We’re really disappointed and sorry that we will not be able to reopen the pier to allow trains to run for customers between Ryde Pier Head and Ryde Esplanade station this June.
“Unfortunately, due to several challenges the project has been delayed. We fully understand the important role the line plays in supporting local tourism and the economy, particularly during the busy summer holidays, and our main focus is continuing to work closely with SWR to ensure we reopen on Monday 10 July.”
To fully complete the Ryde Pier programme a further closure will be needed towards the end of the year. Further details of this closure will be confirmed at a later date.
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