Significant fall recorded in tram passengers on the Isle of Man

After the past few years have seen increases in passenger numbers on the Isle of Man’s main tramways and railways, 2019 has seen a significant fall in all three tramways with just the Steam Railway seeing a rise. Many reasons have combined to see these figures recorded, not least the Douglas Prom redevelopment works leading to a much truncated horse tramway and a new way of recording passenger journeys on the MER but nonetheless they are disappointing numbers at what had appeared to be one of the brightest spots in the lines history in recent memory.

In 2018 515,100 passengers had been recorded across all four systems – this was in part down to the 125th anniversary celebrations of the Manx Electric Railway which had seen higher than usual visitor numbers particularly in September and a lengthy spell of good weather had also been seen during the year. Moving on to 2019 and with no celebrations, the lack of any meaningful horse tram service (not only affecting the Horse Tramway but also the MER and SMR with the interchange at Derby Castle) and poorer weather just 328,196 passengers were recorded – a fall of 36.28%. While a fall was expected based on the above factors this has taken passenger numbers well below previous year’s figures as well and is hopefully not endemic of a continued decline in years to come. However, Isle of Man Railways have already warned they don’t expect any significant improvement to come all the time the horse tramway service is disrupted by the Prom works.

Added to the Prom issues the chance has also been taken to bring the methodology of counting MER passengers in line with other railways. Historically there was no data available from intermediate stops so a standard formula was used. Now a more accurate method is available because of the current ticketing system and the number of Go Explore cards being used. What is not explained though is how much of an effect this had on the figures, presumably not massively so. Although reports in local media suggest that previous years may have been using this new methodology as well.

In a statement on the Isle of Man Railways website they say: “Looking ahead, this year marks the SMR’s 125th anniversary and we are confident our exciting programme of summer events will bring visitors from around the world and lead to a growth in numbers.”

The figures in fall for all four systems (including the Isle of Man Steam Railway):

Douglas Bay Horse Tramway

2019 – 14,380

2018 – 80,606

Decrease of 66,226 (82%)

Isle of Man Steam Railway

2019 – 128,107

2018 – 113,197

Increase of 14,910 (13%)

Manx Electric Railway

2019 – 135,857

2018 – 244,863

Decrease of 109,006 (45%)

Snaefell Mountain Railway

2019 – 49,852

2018 – 76,434

Decrease of 26,582 (35%)

Total passengers

2019 – 328,196

2018 – 515,100

Decrease of 186,904 (36.28%)

In all cases single journeys are recorded

It can only be hoped that this is a blip and 2020 will see improved passenger numbers again.

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