Last November the Isle of Wight Council passed a unanimous motion to set up an expert Taskforce to consider the way forward for Island Transport, both cross-Solent and on the Island. However, despite assurances given since then, no firm progress has been made. The press release about the future of Island Line issued by the Department for Transport last week after they met with the Council made it clear that the Government supports this approach to finding the best way forward.
Mr Turner has said:
“The Council’s scrutiny committee have apparently this week urged me to take responsibility for setting up the Taskforce, but I have had repeated assurances from senior officers of the Council that they are proceeding with it themselves and that the political leadership remains supportive of that approach..
“The Government wants to secure the future of Island Line but believes that transformation is needed. They will give us the safety net of Network Rail becoming responsible for maintaining and improving the infrastructure; plans must be made to take advantage of this position. I have asked for an early meeting with the Council leader and senior officers to establish exactly what their position is. Once that is clear I plan to call a meeting involving the Solent LEP, Council leaders, the Chamber of Commerce and union representatives to discuss the best way to work together to make progress.”
“Labour are misrepresenting the position for political purposes. They may not like the message from Government – but does not change the political realities. For instance I have not said whether the future of Island Line should be inside or outside a wider franchise. But it is no surprise at all that while the Government wants the service to continue, it also wants to find ways to reduce the costs of running the line. There have been consistent public statements from the Chancellor about the need to cut public sector costs and drive up efficiency levels and productivity. There have also been studies into the future of the rail network, (such as the McNulty Report) which have set out new approaches that are needed.
“We will need access to capital infrastructure funds, either public or private if we are to be able to modernise Island Line and work towards a more efficient operating model. There is now a clear challenge to find a way in which to engage professionally with all those currently- and likely in the future to be responsible for the South West franchise.
Article continues below this advertisement
“We mustn’t ignore possibilities for inward investment and close our minds to opportunities. For example if new rolling stock is needed for a light railway system why shouldn’t it be built here on the Island, bringing much needed investment and employment for Islanders?”