The Isle of Wight Steam Railway has said that they are open to discussions with the Island’s MP and the Office for Road and Rail over initial plans to extend the commercial railway from Smallbrook to Newport.
Bob Seely MP has this week confirmed he is seeking a feasibility study to look at the options for extending the railway from Shanklin to Ventnor, as well as extending the Island Line network from Smallbrook Junction to Newport via the Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s infrastructure.
The railway at one point did run from Shanklin to Ventnor via Wroxall, but since the 1960s the land has been built on and Southern Water occupies the tunnel through St Boniface Down.
The line from Smallbrook to Wootton is used by the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. Although the former track path to Newport remains fairly unchanged, the endpoint at Fairlee Road is now heavily built upon.
In a statement issued today (Monday) Steve Backhouse, General Manager at Isle of Wight Steam Railway, has said:
“We have a strong working relationship with our neighbours at Island Line and fully support their recently announced investment in new track and rolling stock. More generally we remain supportive of the development of public transport on the island.
“We note with interest the suggestion, put forward by Bob Seely MP, of connecting Newport to Ryde via the Steam Railway and Island Line. Whilst our Strategic Vision contains the long-term ambition to extend our line to Newport, this has significant financial and technical challenges. For the foreseeable future we, therefore, have no plans to extend westward from our current terminus at Wootton.
“Current safety legislation makes shared usage of our line challenging. Modern faster trains needed to operate a viable public transport link would not be able to operate alongside our historic wooden-bodied carriages which currently run at a maximum speed of 25mph. Significant changes would also be required to the infrastructure and signalling.
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“We are open to discussions with Bob Seely MP and the Office for Road and Rail to establish whether these challenges could be overcome”.