THE last train on the Isle of Wight formed of redundant London Underground tube stock ran last night, bringing to an end an era which goes back to 1967.
After permission to close the last surviving line on the island between Ryde and Shanklin had been refused, British Rail electrified the route and imported trains of ex-London Transport ‘standard’ tube stock, which had been built in 1927.
This small fleet stayed in service until 1989, when it was replaced by slightly newer trains which had come into service in London just before the Second World War.
Vehicles of 1938 stock were then used to form two-car trains and dubbed Class 483, but these had been becoming increasingly unreliable and have now reached the end of the line. The last train departed from Ryde Pier Head at 23.17 last night.
They will be replaced in March by more former London Underground trains, but these will be Vivarail Class 484 units. These are based on retired D78 subsurface stock which ran for many years on the District Line and has been extensively updated by Vivarail, gaining toilets and wheelchair spaces for the first time and also a conversion from four- to three-rail working. The first of these trains has already arrived on the island.
The change to larger rolling stock will mean that platform heights have to be increased between Ryde and Shanklin, while a crossing place is being restored at Brading which will allow a thirty-minute frequency on the route. The line will be closed from today to allow these works to be carried out, and replacement buses will run instead.
South Western Railway managing director, Mark Hopwood, who returns to his job at GWR today, said: ‘We’re saying goodbye to a truly iconic train fleet which is held in great affection by people living on the Island and elsewhere.
‘These trains had already been carrying passengers for half a century by the time they arrived on the Island in 1989, coincidentally the same year that I started my first job on the railway, but they have served our customers well – even if they have on occasion shown their age. This is in no small part thanks to the exceptional team at Ryde Depot, who have gone above and beyond to keep the trains running.
‘While this may be an emotional end to one era, it’s also the start of an exciting new one. The £26 million being invested in new trains and major infrastructure upgrades will help to deliver a railway fit for 2021.’
Meanwhile, the last trains of 1938 stock will avoid the scrap heap. One is destined to be preserved at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and another is being given to the Epping Ongar heritage railway in Essex, which was formerly part of the Central Line.