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Island Line (brand)

Island Line
Isle of Wight Inselbahn.jpg
Franchise(s)Island Line
13 October 1996 – 3 February 2007
Part of South Western franchise
4 February 2007 – present
Main area(s)Isle of Wight
Fleet size5
Stations called at8
Parent companySouth Western Railway
Reporting markIL
Track gaugeStandard
Length8 miles 34 chains
Operating speed45 mph (72 km/h) max.
Branding until August 2017
Former logo of Island Line

Island Line is a brand of the South Western Railway train operating company which runs the ​8 12-mile Island Line on the Isle of Wight. A stand-alone franchise from 1996 until 2007, it then became part of the South Western franchise operated by South West Trains until August 2017 and since by South Western Railway.


Before Island Line

From 1985 to 1990 rail services on the Isle of Wight operated under the brand RydeRail. In 1986 Network SouthEast was created, itself part of British Rail, and RydeRail was incorporated into it as a sub-brand.

Island Line

The name Island Line first came into use in 1989, when Class 483 trains were introduced on the route, and this new brand name and a logo were included on the trains' livery. However, this re-branding did not officially occur until 1994,[1] when it had completely replaced all RydeRail branding.

From 1989 until 1996, Island Line was a sub-brand of Network SouthEast. In 1996, services on the line were privatised as the Island Line franchise, with the winning bid from Stagecoach (legal name Island Line Limited[2]). On commencing operations on 13 October 1996 the name Island Line for the passenger service was retained.

Island Line was the only passenger franchise that included maintenance of the infrastructure in addition to the running of passenger services. Island Line was reportedly Britain's most reliable and punctual train company; the shortness and simplicity of the route may contribute to this.

The Island Line franchise was, until February 2007, the smallest train operating company on the National Rail network. It was combined with the South West Trains franchise to form the new South Western franchise in an effort to reduce the number of train operating companies.[3]

Although South West Trains operated the line thereafter, the Island Line branding was retained.[4] Island Line Trains have repainted all their stations in a heritage cream and green colour scheme, as part of a general station improvement package.[5]

Operations under South Western Railway

In March 2017 the DfT awarded the franchise to a FirstGroup / MTR consortium with South Western Railway, which includes the Island Line, commencing on 20 August 2017. It will run until at least August 2024 with an option for the DfT to extend for a further year.[6][7] South Western Railway will be working with the local council and bodies with regards to replacing the rolling stock, upgrading the infrastructure and adding an additional passing loop to introduce a 30-minute service to improve connection times with the Ryde to Portsmouth ferry service and the hovercraft.[8][9][10] These expected changes were received favourably by the Keep Island Line in Franchise (KILF) group,[11] who have been campaigning for improvements to the line for several years.

Rolling stock

Island Line train in dinosaur livery

Standard National Rail vehicle types cannot be used by Island Line Trains, due to the low ceiling within Ryde Tunnel,[12] where the track-bed needed to be raised following flooding.[13] Instead, services are operated using Class 483 units, which are refurbished ex-London Underground tube trains originally built in 1938. These replaced the older Class 485 and Class 486 units, which dated from 1923 and were introduced to the island in 1967 when the line was electrified. The Class 483 trains entered service on the island in 1989, originally painted in the standard Network SouthEast livery.

South West Trains bought the stock outright from the leasing company HSBC Rail in March 2007 for the nominal sum of £1.[14] The purchase meant that the leasing costs, which were reimbursed by the government, were eliminated, thereby lowering the line's tax burden.

Island Line Class 483 No. 004 at Ryde St John's Road station

The rolling stock operate in the former London Regional Transport livery, which the units would have had when operating on the London Underground. Two units first received this livery in 2000, when the rest were painted in a blue livery with pictures of dinosaurs aiming to entice tourists in the summer months when passenger numbers are high. A modern change is that there are yellow warning panels on the front ends of the units, required for the safety of track workers and a change compared with the original red. The livery was introduced as part of a refurbishment completed between 2007 and 2008, HSBC Rail,[15] which also included work at all stations. Rolling stock also received the same seat moquette that the London Underground A60 and A62 Stock received during their refurbishment between 1993–98, and interior route maps in green. Stations also received new tarmac platforms, green and cream painted seating, new waiting shelters and 'heritage' style station name boards.[16]

In September 2019, South Western Railway announced the Class 483s would be replaced by five two car Class 484s in 2020.[17]

Current fleet

 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Routes operated   Built 
 mph   km/h 
Class 483 Sandown Station 786087.jpg Electric Multiple Unit 45 72.5 4 Island Line 1938
1989 - 1992

Future Fleet

 Class  Image  Type   Top speed   Number   Routes operated   Built 
 mph   km/h 
Class 484 Electric Multiple Unit 5 Island Line 1978-1981 (as D78 stock)
2019-2020 (rebuilt)

Past Fleet

Class Image Top Speed Time in service Number
Classes 485 and 486 Shanklinstn.jpg 45 mph 1966 - 1992 12 (1 preserved, rest scrapped)

The route

Island Line, Isle of Wight


Ryde Pier Head
Ryde Esplanade
Hovercraft to Southsea
tunnel under Ryde
396 yd
362 m
St John's Road B3330
Ryde St John's Road
Smallbrook Junction
Sandown Road
to Newport and Cowes
Sandown sidings
Down arrow closed 1966
tunnel under
St Boniface Down

The railway has eight stations:


  1. ^ Hardy, Brian (2003). Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight. Harrow Weald, Middlesex: Capital Transport. p. 75. ISBN 1-85414-276-3.
  2. ^ Companies House extract company no 3007942 Island Line Limited
  3. ^ "Stagecoach wins railway franchise". BBC News Online. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
  4. ^ "Island Line Online - Contact Us". Archived from the original on 23 July 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2007. Island Line is a brand name of Stagecoach South Western Trains Ltd.
  5. ^ "Spruce up for Island Line stations". South West Trains. Retrieved 3 September 2007.
  6. ^ FirstGroup and MTR welcome South Western rail franchise award Archived 26 June 2018 at the Wayback Machine London Stock Exchange 27 March 2017
  7. ^ First/MTR joint venture wins South Western franchise Railway Gazette International 27 March 2017
  8. ^ "Isle of Wight - Island Train to be run by First Group Consortium". 27 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  9. ^ "Island Line: Passenger group share cautious welcome over franchise news". 29 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  10. ^ "First MTR South Western Trains Limited wins South Western franchise". 27 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  11. ^ []
  12. ^ "1938 tube stock on the Isle of Wight". Retrieved 13 March 2009.
  13. ^ Scott, Jenny (20 June 2015). "London Tubes: Unexpected locations of underground trains". BBC News. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Island Line buys trains for £1". Solent TV. 28 March 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  15. ^ "Smart new look for 'pensioner' trains". Isle of Wight County Press. 23 January 2008. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  16. ^ TheRailwayCentre.Com
  17. ^ Isle of Wight line’s future secured with £26m investment Railway Gazette International 16 September 2019

External links

Preceded by
Network SouthEast
As part of British Rail
Operator of Island Line franchise
1996 - 2007
Succeeded by
South West Trains
South Western franchise
Preceded by
Island Line Trains
Island Line franchise
Sub-brand of South Western franchise
2007 - present