Increase in passenger numbers on the Isle of Man heritage lines!

Some pleasing news to report from the Isle of Man is a major increase in passenger numbers recorded on the various heritage lines on the island – including for both the Manx Electric Railway and the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway.

The figures released have shown that on the Manx Electric Railway 158,000 passengers travelled on the line – this equates to a 20% increase from the previous year.

On the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway the figure was 45,000. This was the first full year of operation since the pandemic for the horses. Although, of course, it was also the first full season of the shortened line only running as far as Villa Marina with the section beyond there to the Sea Terminal not having been reconstructed.

As well as those two lines, the Isle of Man Steam Railway recorded 128,000 passenger journeys.

All told the combined figures across the lines operated by Isle of Man Transport saw an increase of 12% from the previous year. This can be partly explained by the “Year of the Railways” events to celebrate the Steam Railway’s 150th anniversary and the MER’s 130th birthday, an increase in visitors as we get further away from the pandemic as well as a major rise in cruise ship visits to the Isle of Man.

The heritage railways are currently subject to a major review. A report had originally been expected in September but at the time of writing has yet to be made public.

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8 Responses to Increase in passenger numbers on the Isle of Man heritage lines!

  1. Geoff, Isle of Man (currently in New Zealand!) says:

    Let’s hope that the authors of the SYSTRA report were aware of the excellent MER numbers. Any attempt to close Laxey-Ramsey would be a disaster.

  2. Nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    Let us remember that as stated the 130th Anniversary of the MER would be a significant factor and the statisitcs don’t seem to indicate how far the passengers rode. It’s likely a lot of people riding from Derby Castle would alight at Laxey to catch the Mountain Railway plus for many other attractions the port has to offer. Of course Glen Dhoon would also prove a popular destination and there would be a strong case for retaining the line as far as Dhoon Quarry. The trouble is that Ramsey itself has rather less to offer these days aside from the scenic journey there with certain iconic shops no longer in business. However, if the pier could be restored together with some kind of railway, then that might well be a different matter but I doubt it will happen any time soon given the funding requirements.

    As for the horse trams, the increase in numbers could be connected with the MER celebrations. In any case Tynwald would need to consider the law of diminishing returns. An extension to the Sea Terminal may not generate enough extra income to cover the outlay both in construction and operation. Whilst it’s encoraging that cruise liners call more often, it may well be that those arriving by tender could be met by a pre-arranged coach for an Island tour and would not consider a horse tram ride. On the other hand those wishing to make their own way could opt for a taxi as a matter of convenience – no doubt there would be a class of cruise passenger for whom money is no object.

    • Andy says:

      laying the horse tramway to Sea terminal is not an extension! It’s reinstating what should never have been removed in the first place! It’s time heritage transport systems had similar proteced status to that of listed buildings, where once listed, any changes become very difficult to make. The horse cars should not have been sold and there should be no option to cut back any part of the MER or any other historic line for that matter.

      • Geoff Currie says:

        In total agreement Andy!

      • Steve Hyde says:

        How do you propose that all these protected heritage transport systems would be funded? It’s not unusual to find owners of buildings who have had listed status forced on them after purchasing a building leaving them to deteriorate to such a condition that demolition is necessary. They simply cannot afford to meet the cost associated with complying with all conditions imposed by heritage authorities. If a building can meet its restoration and running costs once found a new purpose I’m all for saving it.

  3. Nostalgicyetprogressive says:

    In these challenging times, total closure is always an option to be considered: in that context, truncation though highly disappointing, has to be the lesser of two evils. Matters such as funding health and wellbeing must surely take priority over maintaining what is primarily a tourist attraction for a part of the world which is hardly the number one go-to location for holidaymakers. Given that the 130th Anniversary of the MER will have drawn in extra visitors, the authorities, if sensible will need to view the bigger picture and consider the matter of sustainability. As i mentioned before, cruise passengers visiting the Island are all well and good but how many would venture to ride on the historic transport unless encouraged by the cruise operator? I suspect that even if not all of those who arrive by cruise liner desire to be shepherded around once on land, the majority would prefer an escorted tour. Don’t forget that being on foreign shores can prove quite a daunting experience for many.

    Realistically, those responsible for managing the historic transport will need sufficient time to collect data before any satisfactory decisions can made which involve spending substantial sums of public money. Act with too much haste and incur the wrath of the locals at leisure! As far as they are concerned, too, the line to the Sea Terminal could be viewed as an extension for the purposes of such spending as it wouldn’t run along the original alignment. I appreciate that would seem like splitting hairs, but isn’t that just what most politicians do?

  4. Nathan says:

    I could see the IOM government potentially cutting back services north of Laxey but it won’t be closed – the outcry would be enormous.

    I think the Manx government needs to decide whether the MER is a heritage asset or a public transport asset. It is undoubtedly the former in my opinion, and as such I think cutting services back to a lower frequency should not be too controversial.

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