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Isle of Wight tram proposal


Middleton Press is promoting the use of trams on the Isle of Wight, by the elimination of Ryde Tunnel and therefore the need for underground trains.

Following the Isle of Wight County Council’s announcement of their interest in a tramway, and the re-tendering process of the South West Trains franchise about to commence, it is an appropriate juncture to look at additional possibilities for the Island Line.

At present, the Island Line loses circa £3 million per annumand it is thus an unwanted, peripheral activity to the core South West Trains franchise. However, SWT could take the opportunity to demonstrate the merits of conversion of minor routes to tram operation.

Vic Mitchell’s proposal involves the closure of the troublesome tunnel and the creation of a tramway east along The Esplanade and then south over undeveloped land to St. Johns Road station, rejoining the present line there. It would be close to the 1878 tram route, near the brook. Nearby residents could benefit from speedy access to shops and Pier Head, as well as increased property values. The creation of the Southern Historic Tramway would boost tourism greatly.

There are no historic tramways in the South of England and recently retired tramcars are idle at Blackpool, Midland Metro and several European cities. These would be suitable for regular use, while the older ones could perform at peak tourist times. Historic Tramways are an attraction in their own right. The famous Blackpool Tramway has increased its vintage tram operation greatly for this year. External funding sources are available in the UK and from the EU to facilitate heritage operations. The 1883 seafront railway in Brighton has recently received £1.6m in lottery support.

Vic Mitchell has a life-long interest in the Isle of Wight railways and has written three volumes on its lines in his 35 years of Middleton Press publishing. The company has produced 65 tramway albums, notably Triumphant Tramways of England, which details all the six success stories. The Ryde to Ventnor album gives much background.

Members of the Tramway & Light Railway Society and the Light Railway & Transit Association have enhanced the proposals, particularly regarding overseas trams. Railway Systems Consultants Ltd has studied the issues and is keen to participate further.

Map of Ryde

Caption: The 1896 survey shows the route as in use today. The previous tramway diverged from it left of the "Recreation Ground" and followed the stream shown. This then flows North into the sea, but runs undercover in the narrow streets shown. On reaching The Esplanade, it curved West to reach the pier. A similar alignment could be used by a new tramway, but with more of the brook being covered.




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