The multi-million-pound project was originally meant to last just 3 months with the line re-opening at the start of April. However, it was then announced that the completion of the scheme had been delayed by 6 weeks until mid-May.
South Western Railway now says that it aims to recommence train services ‘later in the Summer season’ – which could mean the scheme will overrun by as much as 4 months, if not longer.
The delays were previously blamed on the coronavirus pandemic, but the blame has now shifted to rolling stock manufacturer Vivarail, who had been set to deliver all the trains to the Island well before Easter. Serious and complex software issues mean the fully refurbished trains are yet to be delivered, although all trains have left the Vivarail workshop.
The Class 484 trains have been undergoing unsuccessful testing in the Eastleigh area of Southampton. The live testing has uncovered ‘some serious issues’ in relation to the computer software adapted to utilise a 3rd rail system. Planning and analysis did not highlight any issues, but the mainline runs have flagged up issues that require a thorough review, rather than just a ‘patch’.
The infrastructure works are said to be ‘on track’, although the scheme was meant to have been completed 4 weeks ago. Even if the trains were delivered today, the track isn’t ready to accommodate them.
South Western Railway says that once the trains arrive on the Island they can begin the extensive process of operational testing, safety assurance and training required to bring them into service – but it’s not clear how long this will take. 1 train is already here but has completed only a limited number of runs between Ryde St John’s and Sandown. It’s not thought that the train has passed through Ryde Tunnel or up Ryde Pier to date.
SWR and Vivarail are conducting a full review to build a strong programme in which all parties can have confidence and will provide further updates on that programme in due course.
Alex Foulds, Major Projects Director at SWR, said:
“We are as disappointed as our customers by this delay. Our infrastructure works are largely on track, but there is a delay to the delivery of the trains and we apologise for the impact that will have on our customers and the communities we serve. We continue to work incredibly hard in partnership with our train supplier Vivarail to reopen a safe, reliable and fully upgraded Island Line as soon as possible.”
Adrian Shooter, CEO of Vivarail, adds:
“As a company we take full responsibility and offer our apologies to the passengers and staff of the Island Line. It would be easy to hide behind Covid and point the finger at the pandemic, but we had in fact managed to claw back a lot of that lost time and brought the build back on schedule and all trains have now left our factory.
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“However, we have unforeseen difficulties with the software. Although in essence it is no different to the version we have used previously it needed some changes to enable the train to run on the 3rd rail. Planning and analysis began over 18 months ago and did not bring any problems to light, but the live tests have uncovered some serious issues. Our priority is to deliver safe and reliable trains, so I have instructed my team to undertake a thorough review rather than try to ‘patch’ the software.
“Although this is a difficult time I would like to acknowledge also the help that we have had from our friends in the Railway Family. Bombardier allowed us to use their test track at Derby, Arriva have let us use their depot at Eastleigh and Network Rail could not have been more helpful. Above all the support from SWR has been invaluable. Their team of engineers and project manager have given us help and guidance throughout and it is testament to their professionalism that we still have a robust testing, delivery and training programme in place.
“We have a team of engineers on the Island already, working with SWR’s depot engineers on unit 484001 to ensure a smooth handover of responsibilities as the rest of the fleet begin to arrive”.
A rail replacement service will continue to operate as it has done for the past 4 months and will begin a 30-minute service from 17th May – doubling the capacity. Due to the ongoing roadworks on The Broadway in Sandown, buses in the Shanklin direction are currently operating via Perowne Way and The Fairway. They are calling at 22 minutes past the hour at the back entrance to Sandown Train Station.
Proposed Island Line Upgrade Programme (issued September 2019)
|September 2019||Island Line investment announcement made at Brading|
|Late 2019-2020||Build of new Vivarail Class 484 trains begins at Long Marston, Midlands|
|Late 2019 onwards||Design and planning work for Island Line infrastructure|
|April 2020||Testing begins on first Class 484 Island Line unit|
|Spring 2020||Wifi and Ticket Machines installed at stations|
|First Class 484 train arrives on the Isle of Wight for testing – (delayed until November)|
|More new Class 484 trains arrive on the Isle of Wight – (delayed until Q1 2021)|
|Shuttle service during infrastructure works – line completely closed instead|
|Final new Class 484 carriages delivered – delayed until the Summer|
|March 2021||Last 1938 stock Island Line train decommissioned|
|Brand new timetable introduced with new trains – delayed until at least late Summer|
Last month the old Class 483 trains were lifted off the tracks at Ryde St John’s and taken to their new homes – or the scrap heap.