Transport on the Isle of Wight

IsleofWightmap 1945
A map of the island from 1945
Isle of Wight public transport map September 2010
Public Transport Map, from September 2010


Isle of Wight 483 001
An Island Line train, unit 483001 in 1989.

The Island Line is the one railway left on the island. It runs some 8½ miles from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin, down the eastern side of the island via Brading and Sandown. It was opened by the Isle of Wight Railway in 1864, and between 1996 and 2007 was run by the smallest train operating company on the National Rail network. Services are now provided by Island Line Trains, part of the South West Trains franchise, using electric trains which are old London Underground rolling stock.

The island also has a steam-operated heritage railway, the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. This connects with the Island Line at Smallbrook Junction, and was part of the former Ryde to Newport line.

In the 1950s and 1960s, and before the Beeching Report, the island enjoyed a comprehensive network based on a triangle of lines connecting Ryde, Newport, Sandown and Ventnor. Lines ran from Ryde to Cowes via Newport and from Ryde to Ventnor via Brading, Sandown and Shanklin. Branch lines led from Brading to Bembridge, Sandown to Newport and west from Newport to Yarmouth and Freshwater. There were 2 stations at Ventnor:

  1. Ventnor, the terminus of the aforementioned Island Line from Ryde via Brading, Sandown and Shanklin.
  2. Ventnor Town (renamed Ventnor West by the Southern Railway in 1923) – a branch of the Newport-Sandown line from Merstone, via Godshill.

The two lines terminated at different levels above the town.

Today much of the old rail network has been converted to cycle ways, including the Newport-Cowes, Newport-Sandown and Yarmouth-Freshwater sections. Other sections can still be traced on the ground, including the two tunnels where the Ventnor lines ran beneath the downs.


The Island has 489 miles (787 km) of roadway, and does not have any motorway, although it does have a short stretch of dual carriageway with a 70 mph speed limit north of Newport.

A sign used to greet visitors disembarking from the car ferry at Fishbourne stating Island Roads are Different, Please Drive Carefully.[1]


Southern Vectis bus 1660 in Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Southern Vectis ADL MMC 1660 in Shanklin
Wightbus 5805
A Wightbus vehicle in Newport.

April 1905 saw the start of bus services, with the Isle of Wight Express Syndicate operating a circular service running between Newport, Shanklin, Sandown and Ryde. The Vectis bus company was formed in 1922. At first it used only double decker buses; however a review found that island roads were not always suitable, and so single deckers were used instead (double deckers were re-introduced in 1936). In 1929, the Vectis Bus Company was bought by Southern Railway, forming Southern Vectis. After 1968 it became part of the state-owned National Bus Company. In 1986 with privatisation, the bus company was bought by its management team, and it stayed independent until 2005, when it was bought by the Go-Ahead Group.[2]

Southern Vectis had a near-monopoly of island bus transport for most of the 20th and early 21st Century, challenged only briefly after deregulation in 1986. It now runs fifteen different routes, with the most regular services between the larger towns such as Ryde and Cowes. From April 2006, the company changed the livery on its buses (excluding open top buses) to two shades of green, and also adopted a new simplified network, based on most routes radiating from Newport. The bus station in Newport was relocated nearby and redeveloped, with the previous site built over with shops.

During the summer, Southern Vectis also operates some open-topped buses as tourist routes: The Downs Breezer and The Needles Breezer.

Wightbus first started in the 1970s as the Isle of Wight County Council's 'County Bus', and branded 'Wightbus' in 1997. They operate a smaller network of services that are not viable for a commercial operator, but that attract government subsidy. They took around 1000 island students to and from school, until Southern Vectis took over all school services from September 2010.[3]

Cowes has currently the only park-and-ride bus site on the island; however there has been talk of building one for Newport.[4]

Bus stations

There are three bus stations on the Isle of Wight, most services from them are run by Southern Vectis:


Newport bus station 2
Newport Bus Interchange

Newport bus station is located in Newport town centre of Newport, on Orchard Street. The old bus station was demolished in late 2005 to make way for a retail development.[5]

The bus station features an indoor heated waiting area and an information desk. Seats and lighting have been installed and the entire bus station is a no-smoking area.

Newport town centre has bus lanes leading to the bus station, known as the 'Red Carpet'. However one section of the bus lane in South Street, close to the bus station, which was originally temporary while the bus station was being built, has been proved 'not legal', effectively meaning any other vehicle can use it.[6]


Ryde bus station is slightly smaller than Newport's and is located on the esplanade near the Hovertravel terminal and Island line railway station. There are plans to re-develop it into a new interchange as a gateway to the island; however, these have been subject to delay. Benches and litter bins removed for construction work have been replaced and the temporary Esplanade bus stops removed. In October 2009 the project was abandoned.[7]


Yarmouth bus station
Yarmouth Bus Station

Yarmouth bus station, next to the Wightlink ferry terminal, serves Southern Vectis route 7 as well as The Needles tour during the summer. As well as three stands for buses, the area has parking for visiting coaches, often full in the summer. There is a large bus shelter for waiting passengers, which doubles as an information kiosk in the summer.

Walking and cycling

The Island has an extensive network of byways, bridleways, footpaths and cycle tracks, including 520 miles (840 km) of public rights of way. Several long distance paths are highlighted on Ordnance Survey maps and local signs, including a route around the whole island (the Isle of Wight Coastal Path), and smaller trails such as the Tennyson Trail and Worsley Trail. The island is also home to the Isle of Wight Walking Festival, which has taken place annually in May for ten years and now has over 200 different walks.[8]

Sustrans National Cycle Network routes 22 and 23 have sections through the Isle of Wight, including off-road sections of route 23 between Cowes and Newport and Newport and Sandown along disused railway lines. There is a signed "round-the-island" cycle route primarily on road, as well as a 12-mile (19 km) on and off-road leisure route called the Sunshine Trail. The Island holds an annual Cycling Festival in July and the Isle of Wight Randonnee takes place on the May Bank holiday, a cycling race going over minor roads right around the island.


There are two small general aviation airfields : Isle of Wight Airport at Sandown and Bembridge Airport. These are popular with day-trippers flying from the mainland in summer. Flights to and from London have been trialled, but proved unpopular and were discontinued.[9] However future plans could see the flight reinstated.[10]

Fixed link proposals

Over the years a fixed link (by tunnel or bridge) has often been discussed. All schemes have traditionally been opposed by many island residents and tourists.

In 2017, campaigners for a fixed link claimed that public opinion had shifted in favour of a fixed link, and based on a poll of residents in which 3280 people supported the idea. However, that represented only 3% of the island's population. [11].

The arguments for a fixed link include unproven claims that it would boost the economy by creating more jobs and by providing faster, cheaper and less weather-dependent travel to the mainland. Conversely, the arguments against include a potential reduction in jobs and services if roles were to be outsourced to the mainland, negative environmental impact (such as on the red squirrel population), increases in traffic putting stress on the local road network, the loss of the island's character and thus a decline in tourism, a potential increase in crime and upward pressure on house prices.

Additionally, there is concern that it might affect the pace of life on the island and make ferry services commercially unstable, and thus reducing the choice of routes to reach the mainland.

Among the schemes suggested was one in March 2008 for a proposed tramway to link Ryde to Gosport and rail networks on both sides. The plans also included a large new harbour at Ryde, with berthing facilities for four car and four passenger ferries and two container ships and replacement facilities for the harbour.[12] Unlike previous proposals, it was met with more support from residents, as it would not risk increased volumes of traffic on the island's roads.[13] To date (2016) little more has been heard of this proposal.

In late 2014, a new IOW Fixed Link Campaign, and organised by Prowling, emerged. It has made a number of claims on its Facebook group and local news media that it maintains to have changed attitudes to the idea of a permanent link from the island of Great Britain to the Isle of Wight. Able Connections Ltd was set up to arrange a feasibility study for the Fixed Link plans that PRO-LINK had initially developed. Discussions with the mainland and island authorities are still continuing.

See also

The Isle of Wight RJD 135
A 1914 Railway Clearing House map of lines on the Island, note the different owners and duplication.


  1. ^ "House of Commons Hansard debates for 20th December 1995 (column 1457)". 1995. Retrieved 17 December 2007.
  2. ^ "Southern Vectis – Who We Are". 2008. Archived from the original on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  3. ^ "Traveline – Wightbus timetable". 2008. Archived from the original on 3 February 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  4. ^ "Newport park and ride 'inevitable'". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  5. ^ "Newport bus station/retail development on Flickr". 2006. Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  6. ^ "Cabinet closes Gateway". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 14 October 2009.
  7. ^ "Isle of Wight Walking Festival – About the festival". 2008. Archived from the original on 11 November 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2008.
  8. ^ "Isle of Wight County Press – New London flights grounded". 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2008.
  9. ^
A3054 road

The A3054 is an A-Class Road on the Isle of Wight in Southern England. It forms the Northern half of the circular around-the-Island A-class loop, the southern half being the A3055. It connects Newport and Ryde, the two largest towns on the Island, as well as continuing to West Wight.

Because of the road's relatively short length, there are no confirmatory signs with distances, although on a few direction signs at junctions there are distances to the next town. The final destination of the road (Freshwater/Totland or Ryde), in common with most UK roads, is not always signed along the whole length of the route.

Bembridge Airport

Bembridge Airport (IATA: BBP, ICAO: EGHJ) is an unlicensed aerodrome located about a mile south-west of the village of Bembridge, Isle of Wight, England. It is one of two small airstrips on the Isle of Wight, the other being Sandown Airport about four miles to the south-west.

Bembridge Aerodrome no longer has a CAA Ordinary Licence (Number P854) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee (Bembridge Airport Limited).Bembridge Airport is now open to non residents PPR (prior permission required).Gliding no longer takes place from Bembridge .

HSC Our Lady Pamela

HSC Our Lady Pamela was a high-speed catamaran ferry which operated between the Isle of Wight and mainland England. She had operated on the Wightlink Ryde Pier to Portsmouth route since 1986 under Sealink along with her now scrapped sister ship HSC Our Lady Patricia. Both ships were named after the daughters of Lord Mountbatten, who had been the Governor of the Isle of Wight.

In March 2009, it was announced that Wightlink would be replacing its FastCat catamarans with two new vessels, Wight Ryder I and Wight Ryder II. Our Lady Pamela was, however, taken out of service earlier than the two other vessels, FastCat Ryde and FastCat Shanklin. This was partly due to an engine fire causing significant damage, This vessel was scrapped at Esbjerg.


Hovertravel is a ferry company operating from Southsea, Portsmouth to Ryde, Isle of Wight, UK. It is the only passenger hovercraft company currently operating in Britain since Hoverspeed stopped using its craft in favour of catamarans and ceasing all ferry operations in 2005. Hovertravel is now the world's oldest hovercraft operator, and this service is believed to be unique in western Europe. The service commenced operations in 1965 and currently operates two 12000TD hovercraft on a single route between Ryde and Southsea.

The service operates between Southsea Common on the English mainland and Ryde Transport Interchange on the Isle of Wight: the crossing time of less than 10 minutes makes it the fastest route across The Solent from land to land.

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.

Isle of Wight/Sandown Airport

Isle of Wight/Sandown Airport (ICAO: EGHN) is an unlicensed aerodrome located 1 nautical mile (1.9 km; 1.2 mi) west of Sandown, Isle of Wight, England.

Isle of Wight Sandown Aerodrome formerly had a CAA Ordinary Licence (Number P883) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee (Isle of Wight Aviation Limited).

Isle of Wight Coastal Path

The Isle of Wight Coastal Path (or Coastal Footpath) is a circular long-distance footpath of 70 miles (113 km) around the Isle of Wight, UK. It follows public footpaths and minor lanes, with some sections along roads.

LSWR O2 class

The LSWR O2 Class is a class of 0-4-4T steam locomotive designed for the London and South Western Railway by William Adams. Sixty were constructed during the late nineteenth century.

MV Cenred

MV Cenred was one of Wightlink's 'C' class vehicle and passenger ferries on their route from Lymington to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.

MV Cenwulf

MV Cenwulf was one of Wightlink's 'C' class vehicle and passenger ferries on their route from Lymington to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.

Moss Motor Tours

Moss Motor Tours Ltd. was a bus and coach company that operated on the Isle of Wight between 1921 and 1994. The company sold its assets in 1994 to various bus and coach providers on the Island and off. The name and "goodwill" of the company was purchased by Southern Vectis in 1994.

Following Southern Vectis' purchase by the Go-Ahead Group in 2005, "Moss Motors" was resurrected as one of several fleet names for the company's coach unit (also including, amongst others, Fountain Coaches and the West Wight Bus & Coach Company). "Moss Motors" was also used for a short time to brand a commuter coach service into Newport. In January 2013, a change in management and significant investment in new vehicles (mostly buses, not coaches) meant that these classic fleetnames were abandoned in favour of one "home to school" brand "Vectis Blue".

National Cycle Route 22

National Cycle Route 22 (NCR22) runs from Banstead to Brockenhurst in the New Forest via Dorking, Guildford, Farnham, Petersfield, Havant, Portsmouth, Ryde, Yarmouth and Lymington. Due to the route going over the Isle of Wight, ferry connections are required from Portsmouth to Ryde, and again from Yarmouth to Lymington.

National Cycle Route 23

National Cycle Route 23 (or NCR 23) is a route of the National Cycle Network, running from Reading to Sandown. The partially signed route passes through Basingstoke, Eastleigh and Southampton; once across the Solent, it continues through Cowes and Newport.

PS Duchess of Norfolk

Duchess of Norfolk was a 381 GRT paddle steamer built in 1911 for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and London and South Western Railway, who operated a joint service to the Isle of Wight. She was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for use as minesweeper HMS Duchess of Norfolk during the First World War, returning to her owners after the war ended. She passed to the Southern Railway on 1 January 1923.

In 1937, she was sold to Cosens & Co Ltd and renamed Embassy. During the Second World War, she was again requisitioned for use as a minesweeper, this time being named HMS Ambassador. Postwar she was returned to her owners, and regained her former name Embassy. She served until 1966. She was scrapped in 1967.

PS Ryde

PS Ryde is a paddle steamer that was commissioned and run by Southern Railway as a passenger ferry between mainland England and the Isle of Wight from 1937 to 1969, with an interlude during the Second World War where she served as a minesweeper and then an anti-aircraft ship, seeing action at both Dunkirk and D-Day. After many years abandoned on moorings at Island Harbour Marina on the River Medina, she was purchased by the PS Ryde Trust in late 2018, with the intention of raising money for her restoration. That project was abandoned in January 2019.

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 is at the sea end of the pier, and Ryde Esplanade railway station at the land end, both served by Island Line trains.

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.

South Western franchise

South Western is a railway franchise for the provision of passenger services from London Waterloo to destinations in Surrey, Hampshire, Somerset, Dorset, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Devon on the South Western, Portsmouth Direct and West of England main lines. In 2007, the franchise was combined with the smaller franchise for the Island Line on the Isle of Wight.

TSMV Shanklin

TSMV Shanklin was a passenger ferry that operated between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight between 1951 and 1980. Renamed Prince Ivanhoe she went on to become a pleasure cruiser in the Bristol Channel but in 1981 sank off the Welsh coast on her first season.

Railways on the Isle of Wight
Ryde Pier Head
Ryde Esplanade
Ryde St John's Road
Mill Hill (Cowes)
Ryde depot
Medina Wharf Halt
Cement Mills Halt
St Helens
Smallbrook Junction
Calbourne & Shalfleet
Ashey Racecourse
FYNR trains reverse
Ashey Quarry
Newport (FY&NR)
Pan Lane
Whitwell Halt
St Lawrence
Ventnor West
Transport on the Isle of Wight
Unitary authorities
Major settlements

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