Island Line, Isle of Wight

The Island Line is a railway line on the Isle of Wight, running 8 12 miles (13.7 km) from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin on the Island's east coast. The line was electrified (630 V DC third rail) in 1967.[1][2] Trains connect with passenger ferries to Portsmouth Harbour at Ryde Pier Head, and these ferries in turn connect with the rest of the National Rail network via the Portsmouth Direct Line. The line also connects to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, a steam-operated heritage railway at Smallbrook Junction. For much of its length the line runs alongside the A3055, criss-crossing this road by means of the Ryde Tunnel and bridges at Rowborough, Morton Common, Lake Hill and Littlestairs.

Island Line
Class 483 "Island Line" train - - 1407091
A pair of Island Line Class 483s in London Underground livery entering the Ryde tunnel.
TypeCommunity railway
LocaleIsle of Wight
TerminiRyde Pier Head
50°44′19″N 1°09′37″W / 50.7385°N 1.1604°W
50°38′02″N 1°10′47″W / 50.6338°N 1.1798°W
OwnerNetwork Rail
Operator(s)Island Line
Depot(s)Ryde depot
Rolling stockBritish Rail Class 483
Line length8 12 miles (13.7 km)
Number of tracksMixture of single and double track
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification630V DC third rail
Operating speed45 mph (72.4 km/h)
Isle of Wight Inselbahn
A Class 483 unit currently in service in London Transport livery at Ryde Esplanade
British Rail Class 485 485045 at Shanklin, in the late 1980s Network SouthEast livery with Ryde Rail branding


The line from Ryde St John's Road to Shanklin was opened on 23 August 1864, having been built by the Isle of Wight Railway. In 1866 the line was extended through to Ventnor. The line was originally built as single track throughout, with passing loops provided at Brading, Sandown and Shanklin stations.

In 1880 the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) and London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) opened a jointly-owned line north from Ryde St John's Road. Under the direction of LBSCR Chief Engineer Frederick Banister,[3] the building of the extension included a new tunnel and a third Ryde Pier to enable the line to reach Ryde Pier Head, which provided a connection with the companies' ferry services. When the LBSC/LSWR joint line opened, it was as a double track section from Ryde St John's Road station through to Ryde Pier Head. There was a scissors crossover situated on Ryde Pier to allow trains to access all platforms. Sets of crossovers were installed at St John's Road to enable trains to change from the joint line's left-hand running to the single-track sections on the Isle of Wight Central Railway's Newport line and the Isle of Wight Railway's Shanklin line (now known as the Island Line).[4]

Southern Railway

Following the Railways Act 1921, the Island Line and the other railways on the Isle of Wight became part of the Southern Railway. In 1926, crossovers and a signalbox were installed at Smallbrook Junction to extend double track operation from St John's Road. However, the signalbox was used only in the summer when traffic levels were high. In winter, the two lines from Smallbrook to St. John's Road reverted to independent single track operation.[4]

In 1927,[4] the passing loops at Brading and Sandown were connected to form a second section of double track.

British Rail (1948–96)

BR Class 485 train on Ryde Pier IoW
BR Class 485 train traversing Ryde Pier

In 1948, the Southern Railway was nationalised, as part of British Railways, later British Rail. The line from Shanklin to Ventnor closed in April 1966. Steam trains were withdrawn from Ryde Pier on 17 September, and the whole line on 31 December 1966. While the line was closed, the trackbed in Ryde Tunnel was raised to reduce flooding and decrease gradients,[5] the rebuilding of Ryde Pier Head station was completed and Ryde Esplanade station was also substantially modified. The line reopened in March 1967 following its electrification.[6] In the 1980s, British Rail was sectorised and the line became part of the Network SouthEast sector. Services on the line were branded as Ryde Rail.

British Rail opened two new stations on the line. Lake station opened in 1987. Smallbrook Junction station opened in 1991, in co-operation with the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.

The double track between Sandown and Brading, along with the Brading passing loop, were removed in 1988. In 1989 the passenger service was branded as Island Line for the first time, as the name and logo was included on the "new" Class 483 trains' livery. However, this rebranding did not officially occur until 1994.[7]

Island Line franchise (1996–2007)

Following the privatisation of British Rail, the rights to run services on the line were put out to tender as a franchise. Uniquely on the National Rail network, the franchise agreement also required the successful bidder to maintain the railway line in addition to the stations and trains. Stagecoach Group were announced as the winner of the franchise and from October 1996 they operated passenger services under the name Island Line Trains.

In 2002 a form of Automatic Train Protection was installed on the line. This involved the refitting of tripcocks on trains and the associated train stop trackside equipment at signals. This system is almost identical to the one originally fitted to the trains when in service on the London Underground, although it is in use only at signals protecting single-track sections of the route.[8]

The Department for Transport designated the line as a community railway in March 2006, under reforms to help boost use of rural and branch lines in the UK rail network.[9]

South West Trains franchise (2007–2017)

From February 2007 the Island Line franchise was merged with the South West Trains franchise on the mainland. Stagecoach was announced as the winner of the expanded franchise and operated Island Line as a South West Trains subsidiary, but with the branding retained.[10] However, the Island Line name has been retained, styled as Island Line Trains, promoted as a separate division on the South West Trains website.

Island Line Trains have also repainted stations in a heritage scheme of cream and green, as part of a general station improvement package.[11]

South Western Railway franchise (since 2017)

In August 2017, the franchise was taken over by South Western Railway who have maintained the brand name.[12]


Proposals 1990s

In the mid-1990s it was planned to reopen the line south of Shanklin, to the original terminus at Ventnor. However, this now seems unlikely to happen, due in part to the high costs involved.

Various other proposals have been put forward for the future of the railway line. These have included:

Proposals 2000s

It has previously been mentioned in the Isle of Wight Council's Local Transport Plan that any improvements to the railway should be made to ensure compatibility with the currently shelved South Hampshire Rapid Transit scheme. A suggestion in early 2009 was to reinstate the loop at Brading, thus allowing a 'Clock Face' timetable to encourage greater use. The outcome of this is still awaited.

The book Tube Trains on the Isle Of Wight listed several interesting earlier considerations to the future of the line being considered during its publication date of 2004. These included

  • Replacement of the current stock with discarded London Transport stock of later builds, such as the 1972 stock and 1967 stock.
  • De-electrification of the whole line and replacement of current stock with a new build of diesel units.
  • Rebuilding the line into a light rapid-transit system (i.e. trams), enabling an extension into Shanklin town centre.

Proposals 2010s

The Railway Magazine reported that a meeting took place on 11 February 2015 which covered a relaxation of public railway regulation and safety standards as well as transferring the line to a Social Enterprise Company. According to RM, people present at the meeting included Claire Perry (Rail Minister), Andrew Turner MP, Nick Finney (Andrew Turner's transport advisor) and local councillors. News of the meeting has given rise to local controversy. [15]

In February 2016, a report into the future of the line, by transport expert Christopher Garnett, who was brought in by the Isle of Wight Council to take a look at the options available, unveiled proposals to convert the Island Line into a tram line. Under these proposals, to reduce costs, the line would be singled with passing places and the third rail replaced by overhead lines. It was reported that ten T-69 trams which were built in 1999, and had previously operated on the Midland Metro, could be re-used for this scheme.[16]

Other projects considered for the Island Line include flywheel or battery-powered trains, the use of Vivarail Class 230 units, as well as the transfer of 1972 and 1973 stock to the Island. Two significant considerations for any new stock are that the stock must be able to pass under the tunnel at Ryde, as well as be able to stop at the sharp curve at Ryde Esplanade railway station without fouling the platform.[17]


In order from north to south:

Station Dist. Opened Closed Notes
Ryde Pier Head 0m 0ch 12 July 1880 connects with ferry services
Ryde Esplanade 0m 32ch 5 April 1880
Ryde St John's Road 1m 19ch 23 August 1864
Smallbrook Junction 2m 15ch 20 July 1991 served on steam operating days only
Brading 4m 55ch 23 August 1864
Sandown 6m 41ch 23 August 1864
Lake 7m 27ch 11 May 1987
Shanklin 8m 29ch 23 August 1864
Wroxall 15 September 1866 17 April 1966
Ventnor 15 September 1866 17 April 1966

Rolling stock

Island Line, IW
The line between Ryde and Brading

Due to the isolated and rural nature of the Isle of Wight's railways, rolling stock has tended to be made up from displaced older vehicles, rebuilt or modified as required. Following the work undertaken during the line's closure during the winter of 1966–67, the ceiling of Ryde Tunnel is 10 inches too low for standard National Rail vehicle types to clear.[5]

Since the reopening of the line in 1967, former London Underground Tube stock has been used. The initial trains were formed of so-called Standard Stock, made up into four and three-coach sets (with one spare vehicle, normally kept at Ryde depot), designated "4-VEC" and "3-TIS" in the British Rail Southern Region electric multiple unit classification system. (The classification letters were a pun on the Roman name for the island, Vectis, also reflected in the name of the island's nationalised bus company, Southern Vectis, which was once partially railway-owned.[18]) Under the British Railways TOPS rolling stock classification system (introduced in 1968 for locomotives and later extended to multiple unit vehicles), these units eventually became Class 485 and Class 486. The cars transferred to the island were built at various dates between 1923 and 1934, and thus maintained a somewhat unwelcome tradition of providing the island's railways with among the oldest rolling stock running anywhere on the British railway system. By 1992[19] these units had been replaced by newly refurbished London Underground 1938 Stock, designated Class 483 by British Rail. The stock is maintained at Ryde St John's Road depot.

Annual season tickets

Because the Isle of Wight is within the Network SouthEast area, annual season tickets issued to and from its stations are issued as Gold Cards. A ticket from Ryde Esplanade to Ryde St Johns Road was for many years the cheapest annual ticket in the area, and even though many holders of such tickets never use them for the intended journey, the discount obtained over the year (one-third off travel during Off-Peak hours in the Gold Card area) may amply repay the cost of the ticket.[20] When the Gold Card area was extended to include the West Midlands in January 2015,[21] the Ryde ticket was undercut by a similar short-distance ticket between Lichfield City and Lichfield Trent Valley.[22]

Passenger numbers

IslandLine 1998–2015
Bar chart of ORR annual passenger estimates from 1997–98 to 2014–15

After privatisation, passenger numbers rose steadily from an estimated 1.21 million in 1997–98 to an estimated 1.61 million in 2006–07.[23]

After the merger of the Island Line and South West Trains franchises in 2007, Island Line passenger numbers fell slightly from an estimated 1.61 million in 2006–07 to an estimated 1.53 million in 2009–10. They peaked again at an estimated record 1.67 million in 2011–12, but since then have fallen rapidly to an estimated 1.31 million in 2014–15. This is the lowest annual estimate since 1998–99, and suggests passenger numbers have fallen by 22% in the last four years.[23]

Smallbrook Junction has no road or footpath access and is normally open only on days when the connecting Isle of Wight Steam Railway is operating.


  1. ^ "Southern Electric Fleet Review Summer 2004". Southern Electric Group. Archived from Southern Electric Group Historical Features Index the original Check |url= value (help) on 23 February 2013.
  2. ^ "Southern Electric History and Infrastructure (Part 4)". Southern Electric Group. Archived from the original on 18 January 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  3. ^ "Federick Dale Banister". Grace's Guide. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Hardy 2003, p. 9.
  5. ^ a b "1938 tube stock on the Isle of Wight". Retrieved 26 August 2007.
  6. ^ Hardy 2003, pp. 19–20, 23.
  7. ^ Hardy 2003, p. 75.
  8. ^ Hardy 2003, p. 79.
  9. ^ "Island's new community rail route". BBC News. 24 March 2006.
  10. ^ "Stagecoach wins railway franchise". BBC News. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 25 September 2007.
  11. ^ "Spruce up for Island Line stations". South West Trains. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2007.
  12. ^ First/MTR joint venture wins South Western franchise Railway Gazette International 27 March 2017
  13. ^ "Buses on Rail Lines No Easy Answer". Isle of Wight County Press. 22 April 2005. Retrieved 22 July 2008.
  14. ^ "Tram Link Idea Wins Poll Approval". Isle of Wight County Press. 11 April 2008. Archived from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 22 July 2008.
  15. ^ Marsh, Phil (November 2015). "Controversy raging over proposals for Island Line". The Railway Magazine. 161 (1376): 8.
  16. ^ "IS THE FUTURE TRAMS AND STEAM TRAINS INTO RYDE?". Island Echo. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  17. ^ Anon (26 March 2018). "Third Ryde Tube: Transfer Troublesome". London Reconnections. London Reconnections. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  18. ^ Witton, Alan M.; Telfer, R.L., eds. (March 1977). Fleetbook 11: Buses of South-East England. Manchester: A.M. Witton. p. 61. ISBN 0-86047-111-X.
  19. ^ Hardy 2003, p. 46.
  20. ^ "Any more routes to cheaper train travel?". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  21. ^ "Gold Card Benefits extended". Modern Railways. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  22. ^ "Cut the cost of rail travel". Rail Future. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  23. ^ a b Office of Rail and Road data: see bar chart


  • Hardy, Brian (2003). Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight. Harrow Weald, Middlesex: Capital Transport. ISBN 1-85414-276-3.

External links

Route map:

1996 in rail transport

This article lists events related to rail transport that occurred in 1996.

Brading railway station

Brading railway station is a Grade II listed railway station serving Brading on the Isle of Wight. It is located on the Island Line from Ryde to Shanklin. Owing to its secluded location and single operational platform, it is one of the quietest stations on the Island.

British Rail Class 483

The British Rail Class 483 electric multiple units were originally built as 1938 tube stock units for London Underground. They were extensively refurbished between 1989 and 1992 by Eastleigh Works, for use on services on the Isle of Wight's Island Line. This was despite having already worked for nearly 50 years on the London Underground. The units replaced the even older and life-expired British Rail Classes 485 and 486 units, which were introduced in 1967, but were originally built as 'Standard' stock units for the London Electric Railway in 1923.

The stock is 80 years old and still in service as of 2019, making it the oldest type in Great Britain to remain in regular service. The current operator, South Western Railway, have submitted a plan to the Department for Transport to replace the elderly stock with newer Class 230 units. These trains are also former London Underground Stock, formerly designated as D78 Stock.

British Rail Classes 485 and 486

The British Rail Class 485 (or 4Vec, later 5Vec) and British Rail Class 486 (or 3Tis, later 2Tis) electrical multiple units were originally built for the London Electric Railway from 1923-31 as its 'Standard' tube stock. They were purchased by British Rail in 1967 and transported to the Isle of Wight to work 'mainline' services on the newly electrified Ryde to Shanklin line, where they worked for an additional quarter of a century. At the time of their purchase the units had already worked for over 40 years on the London Underground, but their introduction allowed the last steam locomotives on the line to be withdrawn.

Island Line

Island Line or Island line may refer to:

Island line (MTR), one of the lines of the MTR metro system in Hong Kong

Island Line, Isle of Wight, a railway line on the Isle of Wight, England

Island Line Trains, a train operating company on the Isle of Wight, England

Island Line (brand)

Island Line is a brand of the South Western Railway train operating company which runs the ​8 1⁄2-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.

Lake railway station

Lake railway station is a station on the Isle of Wight serving the village of Lake, situated in a quiet residential area not far from Lake Cliff Gardens and the beach at Sandown Bay. Until the construction of an interchange station with the Isle of Wight Steam Railway at Smallbrook Junction in 1991, this station was the newest on the island having opened by British Rail in 1987. The Station is formed of only a single wooden platform with a shelter. The trains that serve this station are Class 483s (London Underground 1938 Stock).

List of companies operating trains in the United Kingdom

This article only covers companies operating trains on Network Rail lines. For other companies, see List of British heritage and private railways.

There are many companies operating trains in the United Kingdom, including the 23 operators of franchised passenger services, officially referred to as train operating companies (TOCs), as distinct from freight operating companies.

London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum or LT Museum, based in Covent Garden, London, seeks to conserve and explain the transport heritage of Britain's capital city. The majority of the museum's exhibits originated in the collection of London Transport, but, since the creation of Transport for London (TfL) in 2000, the remit of the museum has expanded to cover all aspects of transportation in the city.

The museum operates from two sites within London. The main site in Covent Garden uses the name of its parent institution, sometimes suffixed by Covent Garden, and is open to the public every day, having reopened in 2007 after a two-year refurbishment. The other site, located in Acton, is known as the London Transport Museum Depot and is principally a storage site that is open on regular visitor days throughout the year.

The museum was briefly renamed London's Transport Museum to reflect its coverage of topics beyond London Transport, but it reverted to its previous name in 2007 to coincide with the reopening of the Covent Garden site.

London Transport Museum is a registered charity under English law.

Rail Simulator

Rail Simulator (Kuju Rail Simulator) is a train simulation published by Electronic Arts (EA). It was produced by UK based Kuju Entertainment, the company which developed Microsoft Train Simulator (MSTS) with Microsoft. After release of the EU version, EA's support and further development of the title was taken over by Rail Simulator Developments Ltd (RSDL), who continued to provide updates, fixes, official expansion packs and new content to players. RSDL has also released a much anticipated sequel to the first game called RailWorks, both online and on DVD-ROM.

Ryde Esplanade railway station

Ryde Esplanade railway station serves the town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight, and forms part of the Ryde Transport Interchange. Located on the sea front, it is the most convenient station for the majority of the town. Ryde Esplanade is also the location of the principal ticket office and all lost property facilities for the Island Line. The larger St John's Road station houses the area office and is next to Ryde depot, where all in-house maintenance for the line takes place.

Ryde Pier

Ryde Pier is an early 19th century pier serving the town of Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. It is the world's oldest seaside pleasure pier.

Ryde Pier Head railway station

Ryde Pier Head railway station is one of three stations in the town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Situated at the end of the town's pier, it is adjacent to the terminal for the Wightlink fast catamaran service connecting the island with Portsmouth on the UK mainland. Passengers can use this to connect with the rest of the National Rail network at Portsmouth Harbour station, which is adjacent to the Portsmouth terminal. Through rail tickets for travel via Pier Head station are available to and from other stations on the Isle of Wight. These include travel on the catamaran service to or from Portsmouth as appropriate.

Trains run down the eastern coast of the Isle of Wight to Shanklin (the Island Line), the last remnant of a network of railways on the island. Because of the restricted loading gauge, particularly through the tunnel under Ryde, services are operated by Class 483s (London Underground 1938 Stock).

The ticket office at the station is run by Wightlink and not Island Line.

Ryde St John's Road railway station

Ryde St John's Road is a railway station on the Island Line, and serves the town of Ryde, Isle of Wight. The station is 1.25 mi (2 km) south of Ryde Pier Head—the Island Line's northern terminus. When the station opened in 1864, it was known as Ryde railway station, as it was the northern terminus of the Isle of Wight Railway at the time. Rather than a railway, a tramway continued northwards to where the current Ryde Pier Head railway station stands; the railway was extended to Ryde Pier in 1880.

Ryde depot

Ryde depot is a railway traction maintenance depot, situated in Ryde, Isle of Wight, to the east of Ryde St John's Road railway station. The depot is operated by Island Line Trains, and is allocated Island Line Trains' fleet of British Rail Class 483s. The depot code is RY.

Sandown railway station

Sandown railway station is a railway station serving Sandown on the Isle of Wight, England. It is located on the Island Line from Ryde to Shanklin.

Shanklin railway station

Shanklin railway station is a Grade II listed railway station serving Shanklin on the Isle of Wight. It is the present terminus of the Island Line from Ryde, although the line used to continue to Wroxall and Ventnor. The station now has one platform with a ticket office and a small shop with the second platform now in use as a flower bed. The former subway has been filled in.

Passengers can change onto Southern Vectis buses to Ventnor and St Lawrence.

Smallbrook Junction railway station

Smallbrook Junction railway station is a railway station on the Isle of Wight, England. It is unusual because it has no public access but exists purely to provide a connection between two rail systems.

Another similar station is Manulla Junction in County Mayo, Republic of Ireland. However, that station allows interchange between two national network rail routes, rather than between a network route and a heritage route.


Total Operations Processing System, or TOPS, is a computer system for managing the locomotives and rolling stock owned by and/or operated on a rail system. It was originally developed by the American-based Southern Pacific Railroad and was widely sold; it is best known in Britain for its use by British Rail (BR) and its successors.

Route map
Island Line map
(interactive map)


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
Station usage
Station name 2002–03 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18
Ryde Pier Head 116,652 121,387 116,812 149,226 193,714 210,604 210,604 235,156 223,542 217,272 209,734 218,060 218,410 210,006 211,794
Ryde Esplanade 431,636 453,314 456,944 489,372 442,861 396,358 360,650 392,020 364,780 328,366 301,660 289,574 281,344 277,176 258,784
Ryde St John's Road 140,242 160,891 175,208 178,869 178,914 190,796 200,976 240,046 251,694 229,450 202,188 184,924 180,220 179,822 156,850
Smallbrook Junction 2,995 3,087 2,716 2,965 4,363 9,672 10,170 11,472 11,478 10,832 11,408 11,230 12,134 12,768 12,670
Brading 73,546 66,932 69,074 68,841 60,680 65,794 61,406 63,872 67,840 60,540 55,594 50,954 43,846 48,500 45,848
Sandown 244,876 242,564 254,040 265,499 264,784 264,126 256,890 271,282 297,722 273,118 240,766 203,143 194,276 183,488 162,310
Lake 78,279 77,995 76,364 71,465 69,350 67,162 67,584 67,656 77,772 71,566 61,840 53,006 42,310 53,786 47,602
Shanklin 329,887 341,826 345,020 382,842 368,776 358,658 338,612 345,844 373,006 352,134 318,410 294,698 293,654 291,346 275,076
The annual passenger usage is based on sales of tickets in stated financial years from Office of Rail Regulation statistics. The statistics are for passengers arriving and departing from each station and cover twelve month periods that start in April. Please note that methodology may vary year on year. Note also that Barking and Blackhorse Road are affected by usage of the ticket gates for the underground and that Gospel Oak connects to the North London Line section of the London Overground and is similarly affected. Barking is further affected by the ticket gates used to access C2C services.
Island Line, Isle of Wight
Other pages
Unitary authorities
Major settlements


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