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Island Line under threat

Discussion in 'Heritage railways & Centres in the Uk' started by Shaggy, Jul 24, 2015.

  1. 30854

    30854 Well-Known Member

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    That's a very interesting idea. The greatest fault of Beeching's "Reshaping of British Railways" lay in the complete failure to protect trackbed of closed lines, as many reopening schemes have discovered.

    If I were a gambling man, I'd put money on the words "guided busway" surfacing before too long, so I'll get my salvo in first. Experience has shown that the area of the surface contacted by the wheels takes a lot more wear, meaning a lot of repair, costing a lot of money. This seems to have come as a surprise to proponents of this system, but the evidence is undeniable.

    Didn't Network Rail commission a facility to remachine worn track a while back? If so, surely it changes the economics of a relay. Coupled with use of Vivrail 230s, even in diesel electric mode, it would give up to 30 years of stock security and (assuming welded track) a more economically manageable permanent way.

    It comes down to political will to maintain the Island Line. Some money needs spending somewhere, because the current stock is pretty much life-expired and the road network is unquestionably inadequate (which argues in favour of rail), but is every bit as bad in parts of the island with no remaining railways (which doesn't).

    Somehow, I don't see any realistic possiblility of restoring Cowes, or Ventnor, let alone Freshwater, to the railway map. Newport (well, the eastern outskirts) may one day enjoy heritage services, but when that happy day dawns, it's highly unlikely the line will form part of the everyday transport system.

    Any decision reached will be controversial, and it would be an uncharacteristically courageous politician who carried the can for it, hence my suspicion of many political shenanigans on the horizon. As Sir Humphrey Appleby put it, "Controversial" only means "this will lose you votes". "Courageous" means "this will lose you the election"! Which decision fits which adjective is something for those who wish to see the survival of the Island Line to ponder.
     
  2. Christopher125

    Christopher125 Part of the furniture

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    I was referring to the long-term economics of DMU operation - a 'more sustainable business' refers to the lines ongoing losses which the DfT would obviously like to see reduced. Ditching the 3rd rail infrastructure might save some cash now but will increase operating costs and almost certainly cost more in the long run.

    That was only really a risk if the line had been removed from Network Rail/DfT responsibility, which was a possibility should the former MP had his way with devolution and a 'community interest company' running it. Thankfully there was little local support for that kind of ideological flight of fancy and nothing much was heard of the idea for a long time.

    Now have a new MP, new Conservative-run Council and even Chris Garnett in his latest report finally singing from the same hymn sheet - backing the line's retention in the South Western franchise and what appear to be common sense investment proposals from MTR/First.

    We'll have to wait for the details of course, but there's real cause for optimism.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
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  3. David R

    David R Active Member

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    And here is the latest Garnett Report:

    https://www.iwight.com/azservices/documents/1190-TITF-Report-FINAL.PDF

    Doesn't say very much at all about Island Line - 1 1/2 pages starting on Page 23

    David R
     
  4. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I would expect that the outlook will be very different in 2019 than it is at the moment, everyone will have their eyes elsewhere, Network rail, could by then be heavily in debt with orders from Government to get its house in order, already the signs are there, Government and the DFT will be busy sorting out the problems from one of the most expensive infrastructure projects in years, crossrail and the electrification of some parts of the network, Sorry but an off shore 8 mile lenght of line i can't see being at the top of anyones agenda, First will not spend money it does have not to, the SW franchise will keep it occupied, i stand by my conclusion that nothing will be done until 2019, thats only 2 years away, it depends on two factors, will First Group want to renew an agreement that will cost them a lot of money, on a loss making line that in turn drains off revenue elsewhere? and will network rail decide that island line does not give vale for money, as by 2019 i would expect any spending by NR, to have to meet very stringent value for money rules before any expenditure can be allowed in part because of government insistence to reduce debt, and from a political point of view, a single MP , as opposed to loss of several marginal ones who may have simular loss making lines will see some sacrificed to protect others
     
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  5. Steve B

    Steve B Active Member

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    I'm aware of my ignorance in these matters, so I would like to ask. It seems to have been an assumption up thread that electric operation is more economical than using something like the 230s. I wonder if that is actually correct. Granted that with intensively used lines with high passenger numbers day on day, the infrastructure costs are spread over many more customers and there are clear cost benefits, but is that model necessarily going to work with a line like this one? By infrastructure cost I'm referring maintenance as well as initial costs. It seems to me that using something like the 230s (re-purposed from the LUL D stock, and therefore much cheaper than new build), with their modern economical power units in replaceable module form leading to greater availability compared with other diesel stock, could be a good way forward. If the substations need renewing, and, apparently from what has been said, the track as well then you are pretty much saying the whole line would need re-electrifying if electric operation was to be continued.

    An alternative to using diesel power could be battery. Could the D stock be converted in that way as well? The limited length of the Island line could be ideal, and could also be a good proving ground for the technology elsewhere. Have charging points (via 3rd rail?) at the termini and depot. Even if the technology isn't quite there yet it could easily be in the not so distant future, and using diesels for now doesn't preclude changing to battery later, particularly if the same stock could be re-purposed again.

    Just a few thoughts...

    Steve B
     
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  6. 30854

    30854 Well-Known Member

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    I had to look up that last word. Although I do recall the notion, it's not one I readily associate with politicians, especially the [enter your own choice here] party. As I consider both Andrew Adonis and Patrick McLoughlin both made a fair fist of the transport remit, I trust you'll accept that my contempt for many of the creatures we insist on electing time and again isn't partisan.

    IF a cross-community group (which needs to reflect a decent cross-section of population, politicians and economic sectors) can speak with one clear voice, the outlook for the Island Line is much improved. If not, a coach and horses will be driven through local divisions.
     
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  7. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Resident of Nat Pres

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    I realise one of the attractions of the Isle of Wight is its olde-worlde charm, but I think that is normally considered to be a return to the 1950s, not the 1850s ...

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
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  8. 30854

    30854 Well-Known Member

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    Energy supply has become as politicised as just about everything else, but cost wise, either you invest up front in generating capacity, from whatever source, or you buy though the energy market, supplied via the grid, same as most of us. Capital costs suggest the latter is vastly more likely.

    The point has been made that between grid and train, there's a considerable cost to be faced replacing obsolete sub-stations on the Island Line. I doubt cabling between these and the track is in much better state. Note too that said obsolete kit still retains a residual scrap value.

    Battery power is technically quite feasible, but again, there's an upfront cost. Additionally, even Li-Cad (lighter than lead-acid) comes with a significant weight penalty. I'm uncertain of the life of modern Li-Cad kit. Those used by the Irish GSR on the pre-war Drumm units lasted around 12 years. Presumably, the technology has come on in the meantime.... Anyone know any details? Lead-acid traction batteries have an economic life of about a decade. In both cases, you're looking at re-equipping 3 or 4 times across the lifetime of the rolling stock. It was this cost which killed off the BR BEMU (and why it sits in preservation, devoid of batteries). In the case of the Drumm units, the end occured when changes to electricity supply from the Shannon Hydro-Electric scheme coincided with clapped out batteries during WWII (Although neutral, Ireland still suffered fuel shortages)

    Hydrogen cell is now practical, although still in it's infancy. Cost wise, not a scooby I'm afraid! I'm watching developments in Germany with interest.

    Diesel power, obviously, is dependant on fluctuating markets. Environmental issues aside, it's probably the least unattractive option for those holding the purse strings. Recent developments suggest a presumption in favour as diesel mightn't be the dead cert we thought it was a few years ago.

    If the will existed, the Island Line would make a fantastic demonstrator for Hydrogen technology. It would take vision on the part of government and operators , plus a manufacturer sufficiently confident of their product to be actively seeking access to the UK transport market. Were it my decision, this is the trumpet I'd be blowing.
     
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  9. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    This is revisiting old territory which has already been done to death and is, forgive me, pure WIBN stuff. How would you wish to run round on a sharp curve with the bulk of the train on a steep gradient and dependent entirely on the carriage brakes holding? Esplanade station is very cramped, between the pier and the gradient leading to the tunnel whilst the platform still in use extends onto the pier. No amount of WIBN will alter this geographical truth.

    As for the tunnel, the floor level is little, if anything above high water spring tide level. I have seen pictures of it flooding up to the top of the arch, For these reasons, St. Johns Road would seem the practical, dare it be said, sensible limit for steam operations.

    There are all kinds of issues involved "merely" extending to St. Johns. Put brutally, these issues would be easier to solve if Island line were to close. Not something likely to raise much enthusiasm amongst too many broadly sympathetic to rail services I feel.

    PH
     
  10. 30854

    30854 Well-Known Member

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    Speaking as one of those 'broadly sympathetic to rail services', I can't but help noticing the 7 car summer trains of early electrification years are a thing of the past. On my last two visits (both on a Saturday), the 2 car '38 stock train contained driver, gaurd, yours truly plus no more than half a dozen passengers between StJohns Road and Smallbrook, where most of us crossed to the IWSR platform. Other journeys have shown me that there is some local traffic between Sandown and Shanklin, but this is still a very easy semi-retirement for ex-tube stock.

    I'd love to see a way clear to justifying significant investment in the Island Line, but there are serious and unavoidable questions

    1) Is the line economically useful to the Island?
    2) Is the line socially useful to the Island?
    3) Is there scope to grow passenger numbers?
    4) Is the cost of running the line diverting resources better used elsewhere?
    5) Would closure cost more than retention?

    It would be idiotic to claim maintaining the road system cost nothing, and road financing issues are opaque at best. This makes cost comparison vs rail well nigh impossible. I'ts been said that permanent way, like people, requires most attention at the start and end of it's life. Well, it seems that's where we are.

    If relaying is deemed viable, consider that CWR wears a lot better than jointed track, so it's not unreasonable to suppose a 40 year life being entirely realistic. Wooden sleepers last about 10 years, concrete rather longer. Composite materials have a (claimed) life of 50 years (though how anyone would know that, as they've been around less than 20 years, is beyond me).

    This compares favourably with road surfaces, but upfront costs remain high. In the case of the IoW, the level of improvements needed to bring roads up to scratch are colossal. Slapping a layer of tarmac down might be cheaper than relaying a railway line, but buying up land and compulsory purchase for road widening, engineering foundations, bridge widening etc. etc. (before slapping down tarmac) sure as hell isn't, and that's just outside urban areas, where these costs rise even higher very quickly. Simply taking a railway trackbed for conversion to a road wouldn't be as cheap as some may think, as these would still have to be connected to the existing road network.

    Is the line worth the expenditure it needs to last beyond the end of the decade? The costs have to be balanced against expenditure on road improvements needed if the line is closed. Have any numbers been produced costing any road replacement?

    Here are the ORR passenger numbers, station by station for 1997/8 to 2014/5.
    Be it known I DIDN'T choose that colour scheme.

    IslandLine_1998–2015.png
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
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  11. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres

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    If i was brually honest, on an economic case, it don't look so good, no there is no good case in faviour of maintaining Island line as it is, especially when you concider NR cost of relaying is about 1m per mile probally more, as everything has to be brought over, but what is the cost in terms to the island? at least with the railway, yu have a direct link to the ferry's one not affected by traffic conditions, what price can you put on that? but its usefulness is limited but also the road network around that part of the island to Shanklin and beyond is already very busy and upgrading any road network due to the locality will be impossible Sandown to Shanklin is very built up, then you have Brading village, again narrow roads etc, so i cant see that any program of road improvements being easy, or cost effective
    The island is heavily reliant on Tourism, so the only way to improove use of Island line would be to attract people in some way you have to find something that will attract people off the beaches, during the tourist season, as a public transport service, sorry it can not compete with the island bus network, except as a faster way of getting from Shanklin to the ferries, i can however see a future, for the line, longer term, but not as a means of being part of the greater transport network, That of being a heritage line, worked in conection to the exsisting line to Wooton, Sandown, Shanklin with the beaches, the old villageBrading with the old village, , it may mean importing dmu's for some services, people do holiday more out of season, so an April to november operation is viable , before people shoot me down in flames, or shout WIBN, its about attracting custom, and i think its the only option that may work, i'm assuming of course that the Council gift the line to the IOWSR, again they are the only people with the experience , Ryde pier is a problem, Esplanade is a problem, but problems can be worked round, who knows, the ferry companies might want to help, as anything that increases visitors to the island means more income to them.
     
  12. Lplus

    Lplus Well-Known Member

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    What exactly does this show? passengers boarding? alighting? buying tickets? Who knows. The total looks impressive, but it would be informative to know the numbers of passengers travelling on each section of the line - and how those numbers vary by time, day and season.
     
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  13. 30854

    30854 Well-Known Member

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    ORR figures generally refer to passenger footfall. In all honesty, I don't know how this takes account of season tickets, let alone the level of detail you're enquiring about. In broadest terms, the published timetable should give a crude indication, which could be refined a bit by knowing what stock (of the 5 units still in use) formed which workings. Not the answer you wanted, I realise, but the best I can provide.
     
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  14. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Sorry Martin to disappoint you, but I won't shout WIBN for I don't think it is particularly "nice"! Every successive generation of railway enthusiasts since preservation started has had to wean itself off the notion that railway preservation is in some ways the answer to the maiden's prayer with regard to general user public transport. Generally speaking this delusion, which I shared years ago, has left us with little save some rather over-long tourist lines.

    There is no way I can speak on behalf of the IOWSR but the railway's management has stated publicly that it is not in the public transport business.

    As for Island Line necessarily being faster than the bus let me recount yesterday, which was my fastest trip back from Havenstreet since I started volunteering there. A last minute decision to come back via Wootton rather than Smallbrook led to a brisk trip behind the "gold medallist" W11 arriving at the terminus in time to catch, directly, the bus to Ryde. An unhurried walk led to an earlier hovercraft service being caught than envisaged. Had I gone via Smallbrook and Island Line, I would still have caught the hovercraft but it would have been a rush. It is not unknown for the train to be a minute or so late which is just enough to miss the hovercraft. The long waits at Smallbrook to catch Ryde bound services are mighty annoying!

    Remember this was the height of the holiday season on a day when Hovertravel were having to put on impromptu extra services.
    Clearly a better placed passing loop would avoid long waits at Smallbrook and give a better service for other stops also.


    Paul H
     
  15. 73129

    73129 Part of the furniture

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    I remember reading some months ago about the tram way which ran from Ryde Esplanade along the sea front and then along the streets of Ryde and rejoining the railway line near the Recreation Ground in Ryde. I wonder if this could be reinstated and then use trams to run over the line. I've added a link with a map showing this tram way. The map dates back to the 1890s

    https://www.middletonpress.co.uk/news/isle-of-wight-tram-proposal.html
     
  16. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    It appears to have been a pain in the rear end for 19th century Ryde, hence the opening, in 1880 of the railway pier plus the connection with St. Johns. It had to be paid for by the mainland companies as the I.O.W.could not raise the money. Sounds rather familiar!

    PH
     
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  17. David R

    David R Active Member

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    There's no date on the post - it's not April 1st by any chance?

    David R
     
  18. 73129

    73129 Part of the furniture

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    I don't know but I first heard about the tram way in a magazine sometime ago and when I google the tram way I found it on a web site. I just wonder if no newer stock can be found at a resonable cost that can be gauged for the tunnel will we see the line close at some point.
     
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  19. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    You will find posts elsewhere in this thread which suggest that the clearances in the tunnel are not a particular problem. Clearances elsewhere are though.

    Of course the tunnel does have problems on account of its closeness to the sea and the Monkton Mead brook.

    PH
     
  20. andrewtoplis

    andrewtoplis Active Member

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    How could the IWSR possibly take on the Shanklin part as a tourist line? It has a splendid record of improvement whilst living within its means, but I doubt it could double overnight. You would have to use many paid staff and i would be very surprised if that was commercially viable.

    Strictly my own opinion.
     

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