Full Island Line service resumes at last (well almost)

Returning for a two-day Easter week working trip to the Isle of Wight, it was good to see that the promised half-hourly rail service has at last begun, almost 18 months after the route from Ryde to Shanklin re-opened.

While Ryde Pier will not reopen until at least June, it is good to see significant progress on the new transport interchange since my last visit in early December 2022, which suggests it could be completed in time for the peak summer season.

484005 descends towards Ryde Tunnel with a service for Shanklin

So for the next few months the improved rail service will be confined to the section from Ryde Esplanade to Shanklin, with the ex-District Line Class 484 units seemingly able to maintain the newly-introduced (2 April 2023) half-hourly frequency.

Work on Ryde Pier including rebuilding decking of the former tramway

Making a trip to Brading on 4 April to visit the preserved signal box it was great to finally see two trains passing at the listed and wonderfully restored station, although operations deteriorated on that day shortly after my departure.

Trains passing at Brading now happens every half an hour

It is hard to escape the view that Island Line is something of a shoestring operation, so when I had heard that a driver had called in sick it came as no real surprise when the newly-enhanced service was suddenly curtailed, and reverted to a one-train hourly service, as had been the case until the timetable change.

484001 comes off the double track at Smallbrook Junction with a Shanklin service

Sure enough, the guard on my 17.11 departure from Brading announced that the train would be terminating and taken out of service at Ryde St. John’s Road, where a couple of taxis had been laid on to take passengers to Ryde Esplanade and the Pier Head. For the rest of that day’s service it was hourly trains.

484004 heads towards Ryde Tunnel with a service for Ryde Esplanade

The Class 484 units are light and pleasant to ride in, although I don’t understand how to use wireless phone chargers, and island fares are remarkably cheap compared to the extortionately-priced Solent crossings, with my railcard return fare from Ryde to Brading coming in at a mere £1.65.

484001 pauses at Smallbrook Junction on 6 April with a Ryde-bound service

Provided both pier and transport interchange are completed in June then Ryde will become an attractive place to visit once again, with the new bus station already fast taking shape and set to be a big and attractive improvement on its predecessor.

The way it was on the island: W24 Calbourne at Wootton with a service from Smallbrook Junction

The new Ryde Transport Interchange promises to become “a gateway to the island and a destination in itself”. For those wishing to reach it on foot from the Wight link catamaran the Ryde Pier Tramway, which ran between the road and rail piers to the Pier Head is being reinstated “to provide a separate ‘boardwalk’ facility for pedestrians”.

The new Ryde Transport Interchange takes shape on 4 April

For an even cheaper outing aboard one of the Class 484 trains I took a one-mile photographic trip from Ryde Esplanade to Ryde St. John’s Road station, headquarters of Island Line, for which I paid the princely sum of £0.95 for an evening out return.

484004 approaches Smallbrook Junction on 6 April with a service to Ryde Esplanade

This is the journey for which I held an annual season ticket for a couple of years when the renowned “Ryde Gold Card” was the cheapest way of unlocking the benefits of a Gold Card season ticket, including both the railcard discount and the six free weekend tickets that were offered for many years by former franchise holder South West Trains.

484005 departs Ryde St. John’s Road on 5 April 2023 with a Shanklin service

Island Line services on 4/5 April were being operated by units 484004/5, with units 484001/3 standing outside the sheds at Ryde St. John’s Road and the fifth unit in the island’s fleet, 484002 shut away in the workshop/shed. By 6 April unit 484001 had replaced 484005 in service, and there was still no sign of 484002. 

484004 is about to enter Ryde Tunnel on 4 April with a Shanklin service
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