Horse tramway retained - but halved in length

The Horse trams on the North end of Douglas Prom

The Horse trams on the North end of Douglas Prom

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The horse trams are to be retained as a twin track in the centre of the road, under a £23m scheme for the reconstruction of the Promenades to go before this month’s Tynwald.

But in a move that will dismay heritage campaigners, the line will be halved, with only the northern section running between Strathallan and Broadway. However, a corridor will be maintained so that the tracks could be extended along Loch Promenade back to the Sea Terminal in future.

Infrastructure Minister Ray Harmer will ask Tynwald to approve a set of design principles including a full reconstruction of the roadways and drainage.

The twin tracks between Broadway and Summerhill are to be renewed in the current location, with rails laid to cater for heritage trams, including possibly MER trams in the future, and even allow for a potential modern light rail electric tramway system.

Truncating the line will save £750,000 and preserve parking.

A report to go before Tynwald states: ‘The department does not believe that operating horse trams along the full length of the Promenade is commercially viable.’

Existing parking provision and kerb alignments are to be largely retained in the northern end of the Promenade. The report notes that the loss of any parking provision will cause significant concern to retailers, hoteliers and shoppers.

There will be a broader revamp of the area around the Villa Marina and Gaiety Theatre including the construction of a tramway terminus.

In the section of the Promenade running between the Sea Terminal and the War Memorial, the tracks will be a removed but a tram corridor is to be allowed for to provide for the possible future extension of the tramway. However, if the section to the south of the War Memorial were built it would be used infrequently. The horse tramway is expected to run at a loss of £60,000 a year.

The total cost of the scheme, including enhanced surfaces for footpaths, side roads and highways between Regent Street and Broadway, will come to £23m - but that includes the £3m already spent on designs fees and work completed on phase one of the project.

If the required approvals and consents are secured in a timely manner the department expects works to start by the end of September 2017.

Mr Harmer said he was confident that the scheme would win Tynwald and public support. The next step would be a financial motion to the January Tynwald.

He said: ‘It is obvious there is no single option that meets the aspirations of the main interest groups - motorists, walkers, joggers, cyclists, visually impaired people, shoppers, tram enthusiasts, hoteliers and retailers.

‘I believe the department is offering the best solution by pursuing a simple, like-for-like development.’

The MER and horse trams lines would be linked under the plan, and if the overhead power line was subsequentlty installed, MER trams could run through to the new terminus at the Villa Marina.

Of the £3,017,618 spend to date on the promenades reconstruction, £1.64m was on phase 1 works, £248,000 on site investigations, £173,000 on early contractor involvement in tramway work, £70,000 on planning applications, and the balance of £861,000 on a range of professional fees, including specialist traffic modelling and safety assessments.

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