The first of the fully refurbished, high specification fleet arrives today, marking a significant milestone in the delivery of a modern railway for the Isle of Wight
This afternoon (Thursday 19 November), amidst the usual mix of customers making their way over to the Isle of Wight, the 14:45 ferry pulled into Fishbourne Ferry Port carrying a rather different kind of passenger.
Whilst cars, vans and lorries are very often seen boarding, it is rather rarer to see a train, on a lorry, on a ferry.
With a major upgrade to Island Line underway, however, the arrival of the first of the new fleet of trains has been highly anticipated in advance of their entry into service in spring 2021. The delivery, which marks a major step towards a modern Island Line, has been in the works since September 2019, following the announcement of £26m of funding primarily from the Department for Transport (£25 million), with support from Isle of Wight Council (£300,000) and Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) (£700,000).
Whilst the outside of the trains may look familiar – although in a different colour scheme – the inside will tell a different story, with a whole host of upgrades, new interiors and enhancements to the customer experience. The complete makeover also includes adding free on-board WiFi, significantly improving onboard passenger information, and providing charging sockets and wheelchair spaces.
The newly refurbished train will operate alongside four others in the fleet, due to arrive on the island over the coming months. These trains, known as Class 484s, continue Island Line’s long-standing tradition of using refurbished and transformed former London Underground rolling stock. They will replace the existing 82-year old Class 483 fleet, which were originally built in 1938 for the London Underground, and have served Island Line since the late 1980s.
The new trains – which previously served London’s District Line, delivering customers to popular events and locations such as the tennis at Wimbledon and the museums in Kensington, not to mention the heart of the City – are being built by English rolling stock manufacturer, Vivarail, based in Long Marston in Warwickshire.
For those hoping for a sneak peak of what it will feel like inside the new trains, Vivarail have created a virtual tour of the train interior which can be viewed here.
Alongside the modern fleet, Island Line will soon benefit from a number of infrastructure and station improvements including: the installation of a new passing loop at Brading, allowing for a service at regular 30-minute intervals; track enhancement work to improve ride quality; and adjustments to platform heights to improve accessibility.
In order to complete these improvement works, Island Line will be closed from 4 January 2021 until 31 March 2021, with replacement buses operating instead. Following these works, the new trains will be introduced into service.