The Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee – Prom Scheme

Tim Baker DOI Minister 

Nick Black CEO DOI

Main scheme delayed by January lockdown and ongoing circuit breaker

‘Need to focus in the main job and get that finished’

November feasible time to look at the Horse Tram 

The people that need to do it are working on the main scheme

Over to Nick (accountable officer) 

Nick: Robertshaw has raised his little electronic yellow hand 

Robertshaw: Morning Guys, I don’t question the motives of realignment. What I don’t understand is where we are now. Why didn’t we just turn the whole issue of the final section of the tram track back on? It was always in the original programme and was passed by Tynwald?

Baker: From POV the clear message I heard when I took over was that the Hospitality sector wanted as good as a season as possible. It’s been a long slog and it’s been disrupted. We knew the 2020 season was affected. I was appointed when we were coming out of the original lockdown. Pain from businesses was clear to see and clear to me that we needed to get the job done so people could make the best of the year. I still think it matters to get the job done ASAP. I personally want to do everything I can to get out of the way. I don’t see that there will be any significant advantage to link everything together now. 

Black: The contract element has been changed. Work has been de-scoped. We have to prepare and get the best possible price. Contractually we can’t go back. Perhaps we could negotiate. Somewhat on then off, then off. We were doing well then these surprise lockdowns came again. Dunno if there will be more of them. If there’s any chance at all that Tourists can come, we need to support that. 

Price of steel has gone through the roof, 40% increase. Some volatility around rail construction and pricing. 

Robertshaw: Bearing in mind the delays. My personal anxiety is not over the November start. It’s the fact that the financial side was de-scoped. Did that have to happen? Why was it necessary to de-scope the financial side which was approved by Tynwald?

Black: You have a better knowledge of this scheme than many. The scheme was subject to a number of changes in scope from the start. Your challenges were fair and reasonable about getting in the way of hospitality. This department doesn’t have the universal answer to every problem. We work hard and slog on. Decision previously made. 

Robersthaw: Gonna speak over you, you’re answering the wrong question. Why was the financing taken out?

Black: When we rebalanced the scheme we had to reach a settlement with our contractor. The costs of the scheme is not finalised. We agreed to move forward with the contractor jointly. £1.2 million provision for moving the scheme forward

Barber: Who’s decision was it to move to column 3?

Black: Your committee supported it. It is not in the gift of a department where Treasury puts stuff in the pink book.

Barber: We’re not questioning Baker’s integrity. Next election means a new minister and change in Direction…

Black: I might not be speaking to any of you in Sept, let’s wait and see. There is a need to clearly make a decision. Talking about risk – with the certainty of funding and vote of Tynwald – we just need to get on and do it. The new administration might think differently.

Barber: On the importance of engaging with the contractor early. Some things have been done twice. Lots of waste, lots of cost to businesses who are affected by the delay. When do you anticipate starting the work with contractors?

Black: Minister asked that we do all work so when the vote is secured, we can crack on. If Tynwald supports it, we’ll be in the ground. 

Barber: Damage to local businesses. Seems to be a lot of tarmac being wasted. What are we doing to ensure it doesn’t happen in phase 2?

Black: A number of elements are entirely intentional. We laid a temporary roadway for two way traffic. We try and recycle. Base layers are fit for final construction. There have been mistakes. They create knock on effects, Minister keen to avoid business impact. Aware of the impact we have had on businesses. 

Hope we’ve done everything we can to minimise waste. 

Robertshaw: The rail rip up and the loss of the wall. Take us through the detail…

Black: For the record I’m not a civil engineer. 

The rail – we saw photos. There was a very thin line in the web of the rail. Nothing I would have picked up. Rail was welded by thermite process. As the rail was cooling a crack opened up. First time we thought it was the welding process. Sent back to supplier for full examination. Really fine line, don’t think anyone would have spotted it. 

The wall – even though it was a few cm’s. We paid for it to be done right. We wanted it done right. If it knocks out the whole cultural quarters layout and design, why should the taxpayer put up with a substandard job. We all want to be there with an ice cream. We won’t accept second best. 

Robertshaw: Continuing process of halts and failures is agonising for businesses so important to have it on record. 

Perkins: Are the rest of the rails Ok?

Black: The supplier is a major EU specialist. We won’t be using anymore out of that batch. 

Poole – Wilson: Planned new end date?

Black: Yep. before current lockdown aiming to finish in July. Realistically we plan on losing one week for every week of lockdown. Confusing factors at play. The contractor has a significant number of issues securing labour. Romanians have gone back to the UK. If they come back they have to Isolate. Complex scheme, not simple. 

Now looking at Mid to end August. Hoping to be done by MGP even though it’s not happening. 

Barber: What % of the workforce are not from the IoM?

Black: I’ll ask the contractor to supply the information. Auldyn Construction is a Manx company with Manx Directors. I know there are some people from Romania and some from the UK. Most people remember the welders. 

Robertshaw: Level 1, we have the broad based exit strategy. Above that, overlay of the vaccine programme, on top of that we’ve got the need to start opening the hospitality sector by degrees. That has to be integrated with the capacity of hotels to open. For example, if we get the GSY airbridge back. One wouldn’t want to see prom hotels denied access to that market. Most people went out of town. Issue needs to be considered carefully. 

Baker: A lot of moving parts. Some in control of the Department, some in the control of the COMEN. From my POV, the critical thing is to get the job done and get out of the way. We’ve pushed the contractor really hard.

Contractor will tell you it hasn’t been an easy job, played out in the full glare of the Manx Public. 

I still think getting the job done and getting it out of the way is the right thing to do.

From my POV, the best thing I can do is just drive it forward and get it done. 

Sad thing is, we were making really good progress. Feb invoice was the second highest we’ve had, lots of hours out in. Feb are short winter days, contractors were pushing the boundaries of that with extra lighting. 

I want prom hotels to have the best opportunities and we want the IoM to be attractive. Cracking on is the right approach. 

Robertshaw: Needs to be engagement with the hotels. Whether the sector can survive another summer of uncertainty is highly questionable. It’s a very serious situation.

Baker: Met with one of the leading people in that sector. It was very collaborative, there is a desire to deliver. We’re all part of the same community. I want the prom to be a major success. I believe it will trigger private sector investment. 

There’s no doubt that there is huge added value to a string visitor economy. Island residents enjoy the benefits all year round. 

The general public just see it as a big building site and they don’t understand the fundamentals. There are other elements to it. 100 year old Victorian building site. 

I want to see those businesses be vibrant. DFE connected to them via agencies. 

Poole – Wilson: Committee takes comfort hearing about the collaboration. Concern would be that there are a number of risk factors. Given all of the variability, even finishing phase one could run into the autumn? How will you keep the committee and businesses informed of how you are adapting and flexing to get the job done?

Baker: There is risk. Everything is underpinned by a contractual framework. They have been barred from working for a period of two weeks, looks like it might be longer. 

If we added 6 weeks to the end of July, it would take us to mid September. If we have visitors flocking to the IOM we can phase some of the work. Things have changed because of the nature of the scheme. Very integrated with the contractor. 

I don’t think these two schemes are going to run together. Phase ones is the marathon and it will be delivered. Tram extension is relatively small. 

I’m confident and committed. 

Black: Phasing is complex, can send the information on. 

Robertshaw: The more information for businesses the better.

Black: Will send it to you and make it public. 

Mercer: Can you outline how the completion will dovetail with the sea wall project? Is there a gap between projects or are we looking at more disruption. 

Baker: Clearly lots going on. Need to ensure delivery is co-ordinated. Fair to say that the schemes outstanding are different in nature. Sea wall will be far less disruptive. 

Different situation to what people have experienced to date. 

Black: Physically separate schemes. Making sure that the schemes interact. We’ll be making a final decision soon. 

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