David Pugh: Keep Island Line in Franchise (KILF) Campaign.

26 July at 11:34

The Taskforce report has been released. Here is our response.

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KILF has warmly welcomed the recommendations from the Transport Infrastructure Task Force (TITF) in respect of the local train service.

The campaign group met with the Taskforce last autumn and set out a detailed case in support of Island Line remaining in the wider franchise – as opposed to it being run separately as a micro-franchise and / or a community-led partnership. The Taskforce report recommends that the local authority should “work closely with First MTR, DfT Rail and Network Rail” to address a number of issues / required improvements.

Speaking in response to the report’s publication, KILF campaigner David Pugh said: “By recommending that the Isle of Wight Council fully engages with First MTR (as the new operator) to bring about the modernisation of Island Line, the Taskforce has effectively endorsed the need for service to remain in the wider franchise. This is very welcome.

“It is particularly welcome in light of the Taskforce’s Chairman – Christopher Garnett – having stated in his earlier report on Island Line that ‘there does not appear to be any clear logical arguments for Island Line being part of a wider South Western Franchise’. This assertion caused much concern at the time, leading the IW Council to formally disagree with his conclusion in this regard.

“It is therefore a major step forward that Mr Garnett has not sought to replicate this view in the Taskforce’s work – nor propose, as before, an unworkable and impractical alternative of a tram – and has instead made a recommendation of working with the new operator of the wider franchise. This is a victory for KILF and all those who have campaigned since 2015 against the plans of the previous MP and his transport adviser to remove Island Line from the security of the wider franchise.”

Fellow campaigner, Cllr Chris Quirk (Shanklin South), added: “As a member of the Isle of Wight Council, I look forward to working in support of these recommendations over the coming weeks and months. I endorse the Taskforce’s view that more modern rolling stock is needed, along with a half-hourly service and investment in the future sustainability of the line.

“The focus of the Council, its partners and the Island’s new MP must now be to persuade the Department for Transport to support First MTR’s proposals to deliver these improvements, and ensure that funding is made available – through adjustments to the franchise agreement – to take these forward in a timely manner.

“The KILF campaign does not stop here. Our efforts will now focus on securing the long-term future of Island Line through these improvements, and in doing so, making the line more sustainable.

“Our campaign has achieved a lot over the past couple of years – including getting the Government to back down on their plans to turn Island Line into a ‘separate, self-sustaining business’. We must now finish the job off – and secure a fit-for-purpose Isle of Wight rail service.”

With one of First MTR’s proposals for the route being to introduce an earlier train from Shanklin, the local member Cllr Michael Beston (Shanklin Central) added: “Our town will significantly benefit from First MTR’s plans for the service. I have already met with the new franchisee and I look forward to working with them to see these improvements delivered.”

David Pugh

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