A Scheme That Keeps Going Off The Rails

A defect to the tram lines on the promenade means a large section of the work cannot be finished and will delay the scheme even more.

DoI Minister Tim Crookall has told MHKs that the scheme is highly likely to run into the new year, with the tram tracks adding yet more misery for the dept and contractor Auldyn.

Responding to a question from Douglas South MHK Claire Christian, Mr Crookall said: ‘Disappointingly the rail regulator has recently raised a concern in respect of the rail points at the bottom of Broadway. These points now have to be modified in the UK factory. This means a 70m stretch of track between Broadway and the Esplanade Mews will remain unfinished until the tramway points arrive back on island. They will then take three to four weeks to install.

‘The work will take place off the highway and have a minimal impact on traffic flow. I hope this will completed this year.’ However the minister was not able to say when the track work will be back on the island. Mr Crookall also confirmed that the single track between Broadway and the Sea Terminal has been removed from scope of the scheme and will need to be brought back to Tynwald for approval.

Horse Trams

Garff MHK Daphne Caine, who has often challenged DoI ministers on the status of the horse trams, noted that the dept has confirmed the trams are due to begin running next year but queried what section of track the horses would run on. Mrs Caine also asked Mr Crookall if he believed that the prom would be considered ‘completed’ before the single line track is installed up to the Sea Terminal and when he planned to come to Tynwald to ask for funding for that section of track (more on this later).

Mr Crookall replied: ‘I am guessing that the trams will run to Broadway and no further at the moment. Until I have been back to CoMin to ask when I can bring this back to Tynwald for the next bit of finance to finish that rail, I can’t put a date on it. I know the former Minister for Infrastructure said he would come to November Tynwald, obviously that isn’t going to happen this November but once I’ve spoken to CoMin, I will come back and make a statement on when that is likely to be.

‘Will the prom be finished, as far as I’m concerned before the single line goes in? Officially no. The idea was that that would happen in the original contract but that was taken out while I wasn’t in Tynwald so if you like, I will say yes the prom will be finished without that piece of track in it, because that was what Tynwald did at the time.’

A Long List of Failure

The installation of a new track bed and rails along the prom have been fraught with failure since even before the scheme began. The DoI bought the rails from Merseytravel after the Liverpool operator axed plans for a tram system from the city centre out to Kirby. An FoI request by the Liverpool Echo revealed that our gov spent £200,140 of taxpayers’ cash for 700 pieces of track but that we had paid more than the other groups who bought rails from the axed project.

The Echo revealed that 150 rails were sold to Crich Tramway Village Museum in Derbyshire for £39,750 – £265 per rail; 35 rails were sold to the Black Country Living Museum for £7,400 – £220 per rail and 124 rails were sold to scrap dealer European Metal Recycling for £20,385.60 – £164.40 per rail. The rails had been stored for over a decade in a depot near Grimsby when we bought it. The section which Mr Crookall was referring to in Keys was not part of this purchase.

At the time, a DoI spokesman told the Isle of Man Examiner: “Two batches of rail were purchased by Public Transport in 2014 as part of a sealed bid process for £285.91 per rail, around a quarter of the price of new rail. A full procurement process was undertaken and the purchase was made with Treasury concurrence in the interests of best value in preparation for the Douglas Promenade refurbishment project. An important factor in purchasing the rail was that it was compatible with both the Manx Electric Railway and Douglas Bay horse tramway, and could be used on the MER in the event the promenade refurbishment hadn’t been taken forward.”

Since then we have seen issues around cracking concrete, the new horse tram tracks being louder than expected, a diesel engine being driven onto the tram track to smooth out the rails and earlier this year a 100m stretch of track was ripped up due to a fault that was found after it was laid.

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