Douglas Horse Tramway WILL run in 2016

The Douglas Horse Tramway will run after all in 2016 but the future of the line beyond this season is still to be decided. The Department of Infrastructure have announced that they will take on the operation of the line for this year with a service set to operate between 30th April and the end of October – a later end to the season than has become the norm in recent years.

It has been 62 days since Douglas Borough Council had shocked everyone with their sudden announcement that it was not viable to continue with the operation of the historic Horse Tramway and in the intervening period there has been much discussion between interested parties as to whether some sort of service could continue to run and this has culminated in the latest announcement.

The Department of Infrastructure have described this as a temporary solution to enable the interested parties to continue their discussions about the possibility of “preserving the long-term future of the horse trams”. No extra funding is to be sought from central government to run the service with the DoI putting in place a plan aimed at reducing operating costs and generating additional income. Additional support is set to be provided by the Department of Economic Development, Manx National Heritage and Culture Vannin.

The horse stables, tram sheds at Strathallan, horses and tram cars will continue to be owned by Douglas Borough Council and will be used by the DoI under a proposed licence.

Making the announcement Phil Gawne, Infrastructure Minister, said: “I am delighted that many different parties have been able to work together to secure a temporary reprieve for the horse trams, especially as 2016 marks the 140th anniversary of the service. The horse trams are an important visitor attraction and an iconic part of the Isle of Man’s cultural heritage. This short-term solution means we will be able to honour visitor bookings for the summer season. It will also allow more time to consider any workable options to retain the service beyond 2016.”

Details of the timetable to be operated and exact details of the season are set to be announced next week.

The only fly in the ointment is that although 2016 has now been sorted there is no agreement in place for any sort of service beyond this year. In the statement from the DoI Phil Gawne commented: “It is clear that substantial investment in new track and buildings is needed if the horse trams are to continue in the years ahead. Planning approval for a new route for the tram tracks would also be required. Those are major considerations for the future, but for now I wish to thank the politicians and officers who worked together to achieve such a positive outcome in a very short timeframe. I would also encourage people to seize this opportunity and make the most of the horse tram service this summer.”

A spokesperson from the Friends of Douglas Bay Horse Tramway said: “’As a group we are delighted to have confirmation that the Tramway will be operating this summer, the 140th anniversary year of the Tramway opening. The news is to be welcomed and as a group we hope it will encourage potential visitors to confirm their plans to visit the Island this summer. This outcome has been the result of a lot of hard work by the Government’s Committee (set up in January to look at options for the Tramway). Friends of Douglas Bay Horse Tramway remains committed to the long-term future and looks forward to continuing to work with other stakeholders in the coming weeks and months. Looking at the immediate future we have extended our offer to the new operators of the Tramway to assist at special events to celebrate the 140th anniversary. We hope to develop a positive working relationship with them.”

But in the meantime we can rejoice that the 140th anniversary of the Douglas Horse Tramway will actually see the horse trams running along Douglas Promenade again. And as we said when Blackpool’s heritage tram service seemed in jeopardy a couple of years ago the message is to clear to everyone – use it or lose it!

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9 Responses to Douglas Horse Tramway WILL run in 2016

  1. Roderick Bruce says:

    I think that the Douglas horse trams are such a wonderful part of British history going back 140 years that it should become a part of world heretage site and any shortful in running costs be paid for by central goverment

  2. Anonymous says:

    If it should happen that the track is relaid, perhaps it would be wise to use heavy enough rail that the MER cars could use it, while at the same time extending the rails to the railway station. Ideally overhead wire should also be erected (although there are now reasonably reliable surface contact systems) so that a through electric service could be run to the station in between the horse cars.

    Wishful thinking maybe, but so is the notion of running a line off the “extended” MER/horsecar line up to Douglas Head and along that part of the Marine Drive that’s still open. What a tremendous asset to Douglas the whole shebang would be!

    Is anyone on the island thinking in those terms? I guess not, but if not now, when?

  3. John says:


  4. Clifford Stead says:

    What a contrast in thinking between Douglas and Blackpool! The latter now expanding its network and realizing the true value of heritage operation to the local economy, the former junking its “Iconic” horse trams for short term gain. You couldn`t make this up! Politicians don`t you just love them!!!!!

    • Paul says:

      That should be Blackpool under the current management… Don’t forget the previous MD was a lot less sympathetic to the Heritage cause, so it is essential that it builds up such momentum that no future manger would dare reverse the policy or any politician dare interfere. Douglas Horse Tramway may have just one year to proves its case and build that following…

  5. Roland Harmer says:

    Some politicians and the people who vote for them? Also are not some officers are culpable? Blackpool does show how to preserve heritage and make a business of it.

  6. Sam Sparkes says:

    As an annual visitor to the Island for many years, I have always thought the horse tram operators are missing out on revenue by not meeting the Heysham ferry say half an hour after arrival on a friday evening, and same to take visitors back for the saturday and sunday evenings return sailings. All this would cost is an extra hour of running on peak days in tourist season. The spur on to the terminal should never have been tarmaced over. And as somebody above pointed out in comment below Instead of reduction , Revenue could be drastically increased by extending to or very near the Steam Railway and thus connecting IOMSR with MER.
    It would be a sad day to stay in a Douglas seafront hotel and not wake up to the sounds of the horse tramway.To me that is a key feature and memory of my stay on the Island.

  7. David O'Donnell says:

    Closing the horse tramway is unthinkable – or at least it was until recently. I read about it in the Ffestiniog magazine (now there’s a success story). I plan to visit the Island this year, just in case and so should everyone else that cares, we must vote with bottoms on seats. As someone else suggests, better connections to the Ferry Terminal and Steam Railway should be considered if there is a future for the horse trams.

  8. Dave Topham says:

    wonderful news.

    Isle of man NEEDS this attraction for tourism, idea of too much burden on residents, bah! balance this against fewer people visiting and income.

    Hope something can be sorted out after 2016 operation.

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