Despite fears that the 2014 season on the Manx Electric Railway would start with a truncated service it has now been confirmed that repairs at Ballaglass are to commence next week with the initial work expected to be completed by 4th April.
During the heavy rainfall experienced during February a two metre deep sinkhole opened up near Ballaglass Glen. This had led to fears from the Manx Electric Railway Society that services would only be able to run between Douglas and Laxey as they believed no efforts had been made by Isle of Man Transport to repair the damage.
It has now been confirmed that specialist engineers has to be called in from the UK mainland to assess the damage and due to many different locations across the UK suffering weather related damage their services were heavily in demand. The interim report from the engineers has now been received and initial repairs will commence next week and these should ensure that the line can open in full as planned on 4th April.
A three phase repair scheme is being put into place for Ballaglass. The first stage will see initial work to make sure that trams can be run and this will be followed by a second phase which will upgrade drainage in the area and then a third phase will address long alterations which may be required. The first phase will cost approximately £20,000.
This winter has also seen major work undertaken at Laxey Station where the controversial relay is now nearing completion whilst before Christmas more than 200 metres of life expired track was renewed at Howstrake at the cost of £100,000.
The amount of expenditure put into the island’s railway often comes in for criticism at a time of austerity but Chris Robertshaw, Minister for the Department of Community, Culture and Leisure, had this to say to the critics: “While it is accepted that Victorian railways are costly to maintain, it must equally be borne in mind that they are an essential element in the Isle of Man’s tourism product. Around 38 miles of railway have been retained but a further 30 miles were closed. An independent survey carried out by Ecorys in 2011 concluded that our remaining railways contribute £11million annually to the economy.”