It may be a new government on the Isle of Man but it really seems to be the same old decision making as the latest plans for the reconstruction of Douglas Promenade will see the Horse Tramway only relaid between Derby Castle and Broadway. Following the elections on the Isle of Man the previous plans for the Prom were thrown out with the promise that they would be revisited but the new recommendation goes back to a very similar proposal with the main change being that it will be a double track tramway in the centre of the road for the short section of line which will be retained.
There seems to be a faction on the Isle of Man who are desperate to be rid of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway – despite the fact that it has seen its most successful year for a long time in 2016. This new proposal will see the double track laid in its current position in the centre of the road from Derby Castle through to Broadway where the line will be terminated. It is planned to construct a new tramway terminus in the area around the Villa Marina and Gaiety Theatre. A “tramway corridor” will still be provided for through to the Sea Terminal but no tracks will be laid on this but it will be there “just in case”, although just what are the chances of this ever happening remains to be seen – the saying out of sight, out of mind comes to, well, mind. It is also planned that at Derby Castle the tracks will be joined up with the Manx Electric Railway leading to a suggestion that the MER could eventually extend through to the Villa Marina. If this were to happen it would be interesting to see what sort of future the Horse Tramway would have.
The whole Prom reconstruction is expected to cost £23 million (which includes £3 million already spent on planning and replanning and replanning again) and cutting the line short will save £750,000. In a project costing £23 million is the sum of £750,000 really significant enough to end 140 years of history in one easy step? Another reason given for not building the tramway through to the Sea Terminal is that it would mean a loss of “much needed” car parking along the side of the Prom road.
Incredibly the report which is due to go before Tynwald states that the Department of Infrastructure “does not believe that operating horse trams along the full length of the Promenade is commercially viable”. If a journey to and from the Sea Terminal isn’t commercially viable its odd to think that how a shortened journey which only goes halfway to where most people want to go is considered to be “commercially viable”. The idea that prospective passengers for the Manx Electric Railway will take a bus as far as the Villa Marina and then change onto the horse tram is a bizarre idea – if that is indeed what the DoI are truly thinking.
The plan will go to Tynwald this month and if approved it is expected that work will commence in September 2017. There is no word yet whether this date will be the last chance to ride on the full length of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway.