In a meeting held on Wednesday (11th February) with the Island’s MP Andrew Turner and leader of the Isle of Wight Council, Councillor Jonathon Bacon, the minister gave a ‘green light’ to further develop the business plan for a community operated rail service.
The meeting also involved Councillor Shirley Smart, Executive member for economy and tourism and Councillor Dave Stewart, leader of the council’s Conservative group. Officials from the Department for Transport were able to confirm that the intention is to extend South West Train’s current franchise for the railway until 2019 but that plans for the service beyond that date are uncertain. The next twelve months are critical in determining what may happen after 2019 and provide a window of opportunity for the Island to take more direct control of the railway after the end of the existing franchise.
Members of the party were able to outline to the minister some of the freedoms and flexibilities that would be required to make a community operated model viable and the benefits that could be gained from it.
The leader of the Isle of Wight Council, Councillor Jonathon Bacon, said:
“This was a very positive meeting which gives us the potential to create a unique rail service owned and run by the Island community. The support of the whole Island and wide ranging political support were significant factors in securing this positive outcome from our meeting.”
“After the extremely positive meeting with the Transport Minister Right Honourable John Hayes MP last week this is another big step forward in transforming the Island’s transport systems for the benefit of the Island’s economy and Islanders. We can now steam ahead with putting the plans in place.”
Further detailed meetings will now be held involving the Isle of Wight Council, the MP’s office and the Department for Transport to plan the next steps in taking the initiative forward. These discussions will also include the work of the Infrastructure Task Force which the Department for Transport has also offered to support and which will help to steer work on the railway project.