MHK slams DoI for no date for trams

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Garff MHK Daphne Caine called the lack of a completion date for the horse tram tracks a “shame”.

During this week’s session at the Tynwald, Infrastructure Minister Tim Crookall explained that he had “no hope” that the horse-drawn trams will run this season and that the Ministry of Infrastructure had “considerable difficulty” obtaining the materials needed to finish the tram, as it continues to wait for the points it ordered in January from Germany.

He added that he hoped “to fix this problem”.

Mr Crookall said he was “very disappointed” that he could not give a completion date.

The department should know by the end of this week if it will be feasible to run the horse-drawn trams this year.

He plans to run the streetcar to the bottom of Broadway for now and return to Tynwald later in the year to get approval for his original plan to complete the streetcars at the war memorial.

Ms Caine, trustee of the Douglas Bay Tramway Heritage Trust, felt the department had been ‘incompetent’.

She said: “If that is their plan, I think it’s a disgraceful way for any ministry to operate.”

“The area around lower Broadway is a complete mess and needs some serious tidying up before the summer visitors arrive. Also the way Loch Prom is left does not strike me as a very suitable gateway to the Isle of Man.

“But it looks like for the foreseeable future the prom will remain a complete shambles. Potentially there will be no opportunity for people staying at Loch Prom hotels to jump on a horse-drawn tram to access the electric railway in the years to come, and until Minister Crookall’s promised statement, we still do not know when the horse trams will be able to operate.’

She added: “The integrity and competence of the department must be called into question when they cannot be trusted to replace a heritage railway of global significance.

“Pinching off any part of our heritage railways risks destroying the unique network the island has to offer visitors and residents.

“The horse-drawn trams are unique in the world as a Victorian public transport service operating on their original route.

“Anywhere else they would be celebrated, here they seem liable to be sacrificed by a department that cannot deliver two miles of road and streetcar within budget or within an acceptable timeframe.”

She then quizzed Enterprise Minister Alex Allinson on the heritage and tourist value of the tram, to which he replied that it was “invaluable”.

“There was a slightly more encouraging response from Alex Allinson,” Ms Caine added. “We will have to wait to see if this is reflected in how they are exploited and promoted.”

A TV crew filmed a horse-drawn tram traveling along the track on Monday, but the minister assured members it was only along a short stretch of straight track and they could not be driven along the entire length of the work already completed because it is “dangerous” to go up and turn around to “go against the current”.

Mr Crookall has pledged to return to Tynwald in June with a full cost breakdown to show members exactly ‘where all the money went’.

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