It’s a story which still no signs of having a final resolution – we are of course talking about the relaying of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway all the way between Derby Castle and the Sea Terminal. Last time we reported on the latest developments it appeared that the Isle of Man Government were going back on their promise to fully lay tracks, specifically the final section between Broadway and the Sea Terminal, but they have now committed to completing the line – although it won’t be until winter 2021/22 that a full tramway is in place.
Firstly, let’s remind ourselves once more what the agreed plan for the Horse Tramway was the last time it was voted on in Tynwald. This was a double track tramway on the current alignment between Derby Castle and close to Broadway from where the trams would then pass the Promenade carriageway to run on a single track – with passing loop – on the sea side of the Promenade as far as the Sea Terminal. Whilst not a like for like replacement that many wanted this was at least some sort of compromise and would allow the trams to run through to the Sea Terminal.
However, whilst we all thought that was the agreement a few weeks ago a fly was put into the ointment when a revised work schedule initially suggested the decision had been made to abandon the line between Broadway and the Sea Terminal. Whilst the government did say this was a mistake and they remained committed to the full line it was also said at the time that it may be 2023 before construction was completed.
Now after further debate and discussion, it has been confirmed (well, at least for now) that they will indeed construct the full line but that final section to the Sea Terminal will follow in winter 2021-22.
The plan for the Douglas Promenade reconstruction project is that they will take advantage of lower traffic volumes during the current pandemic to push on with work this summer with the aim to make sure that the works are completed by the main 2021 tourist season in March 2021. This will see the tram track completed as far as Broadway but the remaining section to the Sea Terminal will not be able to be laid in this timeframe. The aim is that this will instead be done between October 2021 and March 2022, meaning that the start of the 2022 season should see a full Horse Tramway available for service.
In lieu of the tram track on that final section temporary landscaping will be put into place in time for the start of the 2021 season but that will be replaced by the tramway over the following winter, according to the government press release. It has also been reported that this southern section of the tramway may be subject to a design change with the use of concrete sleepers on hardcore (instead of a continuous concrete slab) and then surfaced with tarmac and/or grass verges. Although there is no official confirmation this would definitely be the case.
Tim Baker MHK, the new Infrastructure Minister who was only appointed a few days before this decision was made following the movement of the previous incumbent, Ray Harmer, said: “‘This is the Government’s most significant refurbishment scheme and we are determined to deliver a new gateway to the Isle of Man. COVID-19 has changed this scheme, like everything else, so bringing in additional resource and deferring parts of the scheme until after the tourist season for 2021 is the right decision for the Isle of Man. I am certain that I want the works to be off the Prom by the end of March but equally certain that I want the tramway to be completed to the Sea Terminal before the 2022 season in line with the express will of Tynwald. This approach gives the businesses on the Promenade and the Island as a whole the opportunity to regroup and bounce back ready for the 2021 season. This decision demonstrates the commitment of this Government to support our businesses and our economy.”
We shall see whether dates are met and if the full tramway does indeed open in spring 2022.