By a County Press reporter

Friday, January 7, 2005


From Phil Marsh (director, Cleek Railway Solutions Ltd), 18 Westfield Mansion, Shore Road, Bonchurch:

ON September 21 I received a press release from the IW Council hailing the introduction of the Ventnor/Bonchurch to Shanklin rail-bus link titled: Rail Link - catch the bus that catches the train.

The press release stated: "A new bus service, connecting the Ventnor area with the IslandLine rail service, is to be launched on October 4 at Shanklin Railway Station."

The council owns Wightbus. The Ventnor & Shanklin Partnerships, Ventnor Railway Association, IslandLine, South East England Development Agency and the IW Council fund the new link.

The service is therefore aimed at, operated and funded by the community, for the community.

This link fits perfectly with the government's Community Railways Project launched six weeks ago by the transport minister, which I attended in my role as community railways development manager for a UK-wide train operator.

The Strategic Rail Authority community rail development executive director has also consulted me on this initiative.

It is astonishing what has happened to the Rail Link at Bonchurch. It is incredible that the service ceased, given the fact that it served a district officially designated as a 'disadvantaged area', which triggered qualification for the funding to be obtained for the link.

IslandLine is due to become the government's seventh community railways test scheme and the IW Council is forming a community rail partnership. The council does itself no favours as a credible potential contractual partner when business partners assess the viability of any locally operated scheme including the council.

The ill-fated press release quoted Cllr Ernie Fox as saying: "This is a great new service, which will help encourage people back to public transport. It will also make the option of travelling to the mainland much more viable for people living in the Ventnor area."

Painting yellow lines in Bonchurch is not a remedy to a breach of contract by the council as contract specifier, and operator of the link. If IslandLine unilaterally ceased calling at a station in breach of its contracted obligations to the SRA, it could lose its franchise.

Will the 2005 elections become an incentive to re-instate the missing link for our elected representatives?

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