Is there a future for the Douglas Horse Tramway after all?

After several days of recriminations and debate in the media and amongst politicians on the Isle of Man it has now been announced that ongoing discussions are looking at the possibility of running a service on the Douglas Horse Tramway in 2016 – although it should be stressed that at this stage discussions are ongoing and there is no guarantee that anything will happen but at least there are serious thoughts to the future of this historic tramway and we are in a far better position than it looked like at the end of last week.

Last time we reported on this saga the Isle of Man Government had practically washed their hands of jumping in to save the line between Strathallan and the Sea Terminal but since then a number of members of the House of Keys – presumably partly as a result of public opinion from both on and off the island and the effect its closure may have on tourism – have come out in support of the Horse Trams with an emergency debate taking place at the start of the week looking at whether it would be possible to save the tramway through which ever means were most sensible. It was revealed during this debate that a working group had already been set-up to look at the future of the tramway but the speed with which they have met and already started serious discussions on the issue has been almost as much a surprise as the original announcement. Because…

This evening a joint statement was released by the Isle of Man Government and Douglas Borough Council following the first meeting of the working group which was said to be “very productive” with a “number of workable options for the possible retention of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway” being discussed. The statement goes on to say: “A working party comprising officers from Government, the Council, Manx National Heritage and Culture Vannin has been established. The working party will gather information and suggest a way forward with a view to operating a horse tram service this season and to consider the long term future of the horse trams.”

Hon Phil Gawne MHK, Minister for Infrastructure, commented: “The working party will wish to speak to interested parties as its work continues. It is important to remember, however, that the reason the decision was taken to stop the horse tram service was a shortage of funding and this remains a significant issue in identifying a future for the horse trams.”

With Cllr David Christian, Council Leader, adding: “The Council is happy to support the working party by its officers ensuring all necessary information is supplied. I recognised the commitment around the table this evening of all the representatives present; there is a clear desire to work together to secure the best outcome for the Isle of Man.”

It is still very early days in the discussions to save this historic tramway but at least there are discussions and the situation is not quite as dire as it seemed at the end of last week. Mind you with these discussions now started it begs the question why the Council didn’t try to talk to interested parties before making their swift and deadly decision?

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7 Responses to Is there a future for the Douglas Horse Tramway after all?

  1. David Blake says:

    All I can say is I am very relieved to hear this latest news – although the battle is clearly not over yet. My wife Elizabeth and I have added our voices to the wave of support evidently expressed for the horse tramway and have now sent e-mails to a number of people including the Leader of the Douglas Council, the Isle of Man minister for tourism, and also Mr Gawne, the Minister for Infrastructure, following the information on British Trams Online that he was to be instrumental in bringing interested parties together. I noticed on his profile that he lists ‘working horses’ among his personal interests so hopefully that may be a good sign!

    Elizabeth and I worked together on this because, although I am traditionally the tramway enthusiast, since we married in 2011 the horse tramway is something we have come to enjoy and appreciate together. Elizabeth had never been to the Isle of Man before 2012 and has now made 6 visits including one when she took her father over who had also never been before and was fascinated by the horse trams, having worked with horses on the farm in Northern Ireland in his youth. It is apparent to us that the horse tramway can touch a lot of people who are not particularly tramway enthusiasts in the usual sense, but are captivated by its unique charms.

    We can only speculate, as you say, on what has happened to create first the shock announcement and now the latest turn of events, but I have no doubt the financial problems are very real in the present climate. It is good to hear the difficult issues are being looked at in a constructive way and we can only hope that a workable way forward can be arrived at, both for the 2016 season and hopefully beyond.

    Many thanks again to British Trams Online for keeping us all informed as you are a vital source of information and news for those who, like us, do not live on the island. As such, this website is undoubtedly contributing its own part in the campaign to save the historic horse trams – let’s hope it can succeed and we won’t need to replace those Douglas-reserved 2016 diary dates just yet!

  2. Robert Haselden says:

    Please, please don’t scrap the horse drawn trams. Don’t let 140 years of history go down the drain. It is unique to the island which adds to the charm. Along with the electric railway and steam railway. I feel Douglas bay would become just as ordinary as any other seaside town and once again please don’t let this happen.

  3. Julie Wright says:

    I have been totally devastated to hear that the horse trams will possibly being stopped on the island. For me it is the highlight of my trips and my grandson absolutely adores them and they are his favourite thing about his holiday. It will be a very sad loss to both islanders and tourists. Have they ever thought of setting up a charity maybe called “Friends of the horse trams”. I would be more than willing to make an annual subscription if this was set up. I’m sure that people both local and from further afield would be more than willing to help preserve this wonderful part of Manx heritage.

  4. mary hyland says:

    I am an exile who loves the Isle of Man. My great grandfather helped to build the hotels on Douglas sea front and the Pier. he lived at Cronk ny Mona.
    I lived on the Island for many years and my children were born there. The most wonderful day out was always Steam, Horse, Electric up to Laxey and then up Snaefell or to Ramsey whichever the fancy took.

    The Horse Trams must be saved otherwise the Government are cutting off their nose to spite their face so to speak. Come on – a bit of thought could join up the dots again and keep this world famous and totally unique journey intact.

    Good Luck to all the efforts in doing this.

  5. david wignall says:

    I am happy that now the decision to close the Trams is now being re considered , How could it ever be an option to close down . This is one of the Islands great Heritages , Me and my wife Elise , just love the Island and visit as many times as we can, and always ride the Tram.I am a long term member of the IOM steam Railway Supporters Association . I would be happy to donate to cover some of the costs just to keep the Tram running while a long term future is decided .I agree with John Wright a new charity called friends of the Horse Tram could be set up , Best of luck to all concerned

  6. Sue whittaker says:

    I do hope the horse trams can be saved. I visit the island frequently and the transport system you have is unique. Friends and family who have visited have remarked on this and it is a definite tourist attraction. Cannot believe you are considering this. What next? Laxey wheel? Cregneash? Etc. You will gradually loose your history and tourists.

  7. David Topham says:

    why not close the Isle of man to tourists? That is what this decision to stop such a very special feature of the Isle of Man amounts to.

    I have been to the Island almost 30 times and one of the reasons is to travel on the Steam & Electric Railway and Horse Trams because I have not experienced anything like them anywhere in the world (OK i have not been everywhere).

    People in suits/behind desks, please reconsider this unthinkable decision, if not I think you are David Cameron in disguise/in hiding on the Isle of Man.

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