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More details have been released about the public meeting taking place on Thursday 14th December about the future of Island Line, the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, interconnectivity and possible extensions.

Tthe meeting – which will be hosted at Shanklin Theatre, starting at 19:00 – is being organised by the Keep Island Line in the Franchise (KILF) campaign, in partnership with the IW Bus & Rail Users’ Group (IWBRUG) and the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (IWSR). Also in attendance will be Bob Seely MP and a number of local Councillors.

Next Thursday’s event is open to any members of the public with an interest in the future of railway provision on the Island. The topics being covered will include:

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1) South Western Railway’s proposals for Island Line, and the proposed consultation response on behalf of the local community (deadline 31st December 2017).
2) Future plans for the IW Steam Railway;
3) Improving interconnectivity between the 2 lines and links with cross-Solent travel (including SWR’s plans for mainland services);
4) Possible future extensions to Newport and Ventnor, particularly in light of the Government’s announcement last week about previously closed lines being re-opened

Speaking ahead of the meeting, KILF’s David Pugh said:

“Back in 2015, the Government wanted to turn Island Line into a separate, self-sustaining business, and the future was very bleak. Now we have a new franchisee – First MTR, operating as South Western Railway – who have set out positive, realistic plans to improve Island Line. We have examined these carefully – and spoken with other groups and interested parties – and at next week’s meeting will be setting out our intended response to the proposals.

“We look forward to receiving feedback from those in attendance to inform our submission to the consultation.”

IWBRUG’s spokesman John Yunnie added:

“It is essential that the needs of rail users are taken into account in the future plans for Island Line. This route provides an important public passenger service which must be enhanced, and more effectively co-ordinated with cross-Solent services. We have provided input to the proposed response being shared at next week’s meeting and would encourage all Island Line customers to come along and make their views known.”

Peter Vail, IWSR’s General Manager said:

“We welcome the opportunity to share our plans for the future at next week’s meeting. The Steam Railway is an important part of the Island’s heritage – and will continue to play a prominent role in the tourism offer. We are enthused at the prospect of enhancing railway provision on the Isle of Wight, with increased footfall for – and interconnectivity between – both us and Island Line, with the possibility of a shared presence at Ryde St John’s station.”

In a significant step, the Steam Railway have also confirmed that they are willing to consider the possibility of opening up their existing route to public passenger trains, subject to there being no diminution in their ability to continue delivering a successful heritage railway.

Speaking in response, Bob Seely MP said:

“As I highlighted in the House of Commons last week, the Steam Railway had the foresight to secure track when the Newport-Ryde route closed many decades ago. I welcome the willingness of the team at Havenstreet to consider the possible use of their existing route to support a future extension to Newport, which is also one of their own ambitions. This public meeting provides an opportunity to confirm the Island’s desire to see its existing railway routes interconnected, as a first step towards increased usage (and possible extension) of both lines for the benefit of Island Line, the Steam Railway and their customers.

“It is my intention to take these ideas forward with the Government in the New Year, and I look forward to the input of residents at next week’s meeting to inform my approach.”

Any questions about the public meeting on 14th December should be directed to David Pugh on 07974 964653 or email [email protected]. Shanklin Theatre’s doors (and the bar) will open at 18:30, ahead of a 19:00 start.

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