Vivarail‘s first modified Class 484 ex-London Underground train arrives on the Isle of Wight for testing.
THE first Vivarail Class 484 ex-London Underground train has been delivered to the Isle of Wight.
It arrived on two Wightlink ferries from Portsmouth to Fishbourne on November 19. Each lorry, trailer and single carriage weighed 78 tonnes, filling half of each ferry’s vehicle deck. They then had to negotiate the island’s narrow roads before unloading at Sandown.
It was the first time ‘new’ rolling stock for the 8½-mile Island Line had been delivered since 1989.
The refurbished ex-District Line trains from Vivarail’s Long Marston workshop will replace the oldest rolling stock used on the national network (built during the Second World War).
They will retain the London Underground seating layout, with lots of room for standing, and feature on-board WiFi, charging sockets, passenger information screens and space for wheelchairs. Island Line promises they will be transformational for travellers.
The first new train must complete testing and fault-free running between Ryde and Shanklin before January 3, after which the route will close until March 31 to enable track to be replaced, communications modernised, and platforms raised to provide level access.
A passing loop will also be built at Brading station, to enable services to run at 30-minute intervals. Buses will replace trains during the three-month closure.
All five two-car trains are due to be delivered by May. The whole project is costing £26 million, of which £25m comes from the Department for Transport.
Uniquely on the national rail network, SWR maintains both track and trains. It leases the track from Network Rail, which continues to have responsibility for land below the track bed.
NR is responsible for a parallel £20m project to strengthen Ryde Pier. Wightlink’s FastCat passenger services from the pier are currently suspended, due to lack of passengers travelling during the second lockdown.
After January 3, the old trains will no longer be able to operate. It is likely that one set will go to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, but other vehicles, which have been stripped for spare parts to keep others running, are beyond practicable repair.
Ryde St Johns Road Depot Manager Ian Butchers said: “It will be sad to see the old trains go. Each one is slightly different, and you get to know all their quirky bits. The kids love them - you see them bouncing up and down on the seats. It’s like Alton Towers on them, they get a bit lively on the track!”
He added: “The old trains have come to the end of a long life. It’s time for them to retire. The new trains are totally different to what we’ve been used to. The team will have to upskill dramatically - going away from maintenance with sledgehammers and crowbars and using laptops instead. All the drivers and guards will have to be trained up, too, all before the line closes down for the winter.”
SWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood was on the island to watch the delivery.
“There is a lot of work to do,” he said. “It’s easier to do it in one big block, rather than across a year or more of weekends. We realise a number of island people use
the trains in winter, but everyone recognises the numbers are much smaller than in summer.
“There is a lot of work to do on all the platforms to make access easier. These trains are quite a bit larger than the ones they replace, so the platforms have to be raised and levelled - not just for people in wheelchairs, but for parents with buggies as well.
“We plan to launch a new half-hourly timetable with the new trains in May. It puts us in a strong position for next summer.”
■ It was confirmed on November 24 that homes have been found for the two operational Class
483s. One is destined for display at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, while the other will move to the Epping Ongar Railway in Essex in the care of the London Transport Traction Group. It’s planned to fit batteries to the LTTG ‘483’, allowing it to travel the country.