Puiblished: 2nd February 2016
The deadline for responses to the Department for Transport (DfT) concerning the next South Western rail franchise is February 9th. This Consultation has been running for a few months and has been dominated by concerns over Island Line despite it accounting for a miniscule part of the franchise.
The DfT ‘s Consultation team has been pressed hard by the ‘Keep Island Line in the Franchise’ (KILF) pressure group a cross-party, community-led campaign to keep Island Line rail services in the South Western franchise. They have attended franchise consultation events and the event held in Ryde IOW, was the best attended of all the public events held across the whole franchise area.
The DfT’s presentation made it clear that despite the information leaflet published stating that Island Line was to be devolved and run locally, possibly by a Social Enterprise company as heavily lobbied for by Andrew Turner and his team the decision had not been taken.
The South Western franchise currently operates 1,689 services every weekday providing 229million passenger journeys annually across its 1,044 Route Kilometres. South West Trains serves 203 Stations managing 186 of these and employs 4760 staff running 370 trains.
These combine to serve London Commuters, longer distance trains used for leisure and local travel between London Waterloo, Exeter, Weymouth, Bristol, Southampton and Portsmouth.
Their offshore line runs for 13 kilometres using six trains carrying according to adverts, 1.4 million passengers annually generating around £950,000 annually. Since the advertisement was publicised, it has been removed by Island Line seemingly on instructions from Stagecoach.
That the new franchisee will work with Network Rail in delivering more capacity by lengthening platforms. Specifically at Waterloo and providing a new fleet of trains. In addition to this, they will need to work with Isle of Wight Council to secure long term sustainable solution to future of the Island Line which the DfT says loses around £3 million annually.
And this is where the statistics don’t add up. The cheapest adult fare is £1.30 and if the official stats are right in that 1.4 million journeys are made annually, then the annual revenue must be more than the £950,000 provided by Stagecoach, current operators of the line.
Or many passengers are not buying a ticket. On a rail.co.uk visit the car park ticket machine was out of order at Shanklin and the on-train staff did their best to collect all fares, but the frequent stops meant that it was impossible to do so and as all stations are ungated or open, revenue loss could be considerable.
The Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner and the Stagecoach Company Secretary continue their silence on the matter and have not replied to questions about the South West Franchise Consultation relating to factual errors highlighted at the Consultation events.
Rail.co.uk has contacted Stagecoach Company Secretary several times and not had a reply about the mismatch in statistics. On the other hand, the DfT has promised to examine the statistics so that everyone is working to the same profit and loss account. This was previously reported at http://www.rail.co.uk/rail-news/2015/island-line-closure-fears/
The IOW MP, Andrew Turner has suggested that revenue is lost because Island Line Guards do not walk between carriages any more while the train is moving because of the state of the track.
KILF has been trying to obtain a statement from Andrew Turner about retaining Island Line in the franchise as he has lobbied for, while their stated aim is opposite, and after several reminders throughout January 2016, no response has been forthcoming.
Do you, as the Island’s Conservative MP, support the DfT’s policy to turn Island Line into a separate self-sustaining business during the life of the next franchise? YES or NO?
The public Department for Transport (DfT) consultation for the SouthWest rail franchise draws to a close of February 9. The final public meetings have been held and concluded on January 5th in London. The DfT consultation team brought back some credibility to the process with a very detailed an informative presentation and patiently answered questions for well over an hour.
The best attended event was in the Isle of Wight where an estimated 75 attendees voiced concerned over the future of Island Line, the heavily loss making 8.5 mile route between Ryde and Shanklin.
The final event, on January 5 was attended by about 25 people of which at least 10 were concerned with Island Line and its future. These concerns have been driven by the IOW MP, Andrew Turner whose transport team refused to be interviewed by rail.co.uk in October despite being given the questions a week in advance.
The rest of the South West franchise appears to be uncontroversial but the prospect of Island Line being operated as a standalone organisation has brought closure fears based on official figures.
KILF has launched a Parliamentary petition expressing concern about the Government’s plans to turn Island Line into a separate self-sustaining business during the life of the next franchise (2017 onwards), saying that the service should instead continue to be supported within a wider network, with the franchisee required to invest in it.
KILF Steering Group Member, Chris Quirk, who created the petition, said: “Like many small branch lines, Island Line is currently underwritten by the profitable main commuter routes in the wider franchise. Yet under the Government’s plans for it to be self-sustaining, it would have to fend for itself. This model puts its future viability at serious risk.
“The Government’s approach to Island Line is also inconsistent with their support for other small branch lines – such as Lymington to Brockenhurst. We believe our local train service should, like these other routes, continue to be supported within a wider franchise model. The franchise bidders should be required, by the Government, to put forward plans to make the much-needed investment in the service, rather than wash their hands of it.
“Our petition is focused on demonstrating the strength of concern about the Government’s current plans, with a view to persuading them to change their plans and fully include Island Line”.
David Pugh added: “Any British citizens and UK residents can sign the petition; so any mainlanders with an interest in Island Line (or if they are concerned about the precedent which could be set by these plans for other small branch lines) should be encouraged to sign. We are promoting the petition far and wide, as if we can secure 10,000 signatures it will get a response from the Government.
The petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/117990
This was supported by the Isle of Wight Council at Full Council on 2nd September 2015 in a motion “Island Line should remain as a fully integral part of the South Western rail franchise for the entire duration of its post-2017 period” and urging the DfT “to ensure that the franchise specification invites bidders to set out how they would invest in, maintain and improve the service throughout this time”.
On behalf of the Council, Former Great North Eastern Railway MD Chris Garnett has been looking at what the future could bring for Island Line with a headline vision of:
A sustainable rapid transport link between Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin which supports the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of Island in general but the communities that live along the route in particular.
He is also trying to understand the financial structure of the current Island Line operation and the threats and opportunities which require detailed consideration in creating a detailed and sustainable operating model.
He will be looking at comparable local rail services to Island Line and identify lessons that could be used in developing plans for the future sustainability of Island Line. And then will develop options that could ensure the future sustainability of Island Line to satisfy users, the Council and the DfT.
The Isle of Wight Council commissioned Atkins to investigate Island Line which is available on the local authority's website.
Submissions may be emailed by February 9th to: SouthWesternFranchise2016@railexecutive.gsi.gov.uk