I guess its reassuring that even though we are all adapting to a new way of life thanks to Covid-19 there are some things which still plough as usual – such as the saga of the relaying of tracks for the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway! As you will no doubt recall the decision had been taken that the tramway would run on double track between Derby Castle and Broadway before switching to a single track on the seaward side of the Prom for the remaining section to the Sea Terminal but a recent newsletter has set hares running again as it announced that trams would not go any further than the War Memorial. It has since been clarified that this was an error but the Department of Infrastructure have confirmed it won’t be until 2022 at the earliest that the full line will be operational.
As we reported last week, construction works on Douglas Promenade resumed again from 4th May following their temporary suspension at the start of Coronavirus restrictions on the Isle of Man and at this point the Department of Infrastructure confirmed the project timeline was being changed. This would see the planned partial suspension of works in front of hotels and other tourist based businesses abandoned so that by Easter 2021 the worksites were cleared to hopefully avoid disruption. At that stage no mention was made of other changes to the project although Ray Harmer, Minister at the Department of Infrastructure, did say that he would make a further announcement about changes which hasn’t yet been made.
Fast forward to the evening of Monday 11th May and a newsletter from the project team stated that the horse tramway would not go beyond the War Memorial which, of course, caused major concern with campaigners for the retention of the tramway not least because it came out of the blue and seemed to be contrary to an agreement in Tynwald to retain the full length of the line to the Sea Terminal.
This led to the government to having to quickly backtrack from this release stating that this was indeed an error and it remained their intention to complete the full tramway. However, in order to allow for the 2021 season to be as unaffected as possible for the tourist trade – which is likely to see an almost complete season wiped out this year unless things change rapidly – it is not likely to be possible to complete the tramway in time.
A spokesman from the DoI said: “The project has now resumed under a revised schedule taking into account lighter traffic and fewer people using the area. The intention is for the horse tram track to reach Broadway at least by the end of March 2021. The project will then stop, allowing hoteliers and other stakeholders in the tourism sector badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic the opportunity to resume activity free of any disruption caused by the construction scheme. Work required to install the horse tram track further south is planned to be completed in due course.”
A further statement, this time attributed to Roy Harmer himself, made to Tynwald gave a few more details where he gave the following timeline:
March 2021 – horse tramway completed as far as Broadway
Winter 2021 – tracks laid across the road to the War Memorial
Winter 2022/23 – full length of tramway completed to the Sea Terminal
In the meantime it is reported a “soft-landscaped” corridor will be provided on Loch Promenade which will in due course be replaced by the single track tramway.
With any luck this is the last controversial news release on the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway until it is running in full again but somehow we expect there will be many more controversies to come if the past few years are anything to go by!