A report into the future operation of heritage rail has been delayed.

Consultants Systra were appointed earlier this year to carry out an independent review and economic impact assessment of the island’s vintage rail network including the Steam Railway, Manx Electric Railway, Snaefell Mountain Railway and Douglas Bay Horse Tramway.

A six-week public consultation ended on August 13 and Systra was due to report back by the end of September.

But a spokesman for the Department of Infrastructure confirmed there had been a short delay. He said: ‘Systra are advising that the report will be with the department in around two weeks. The findings will be considered at that stage and we will then be able to advise on where and when it will be published.’

Garff MHK Daphne Caine has said she believes the heritage railways are facing their biggest threat in half a century, given that their future operation is under review and the fact that the capital budget for maintenance of the lines was halved in this year’s Budget.

Systra’s review and impact assessment is estimating the true value of the heritage railways and how the benefits arising from their operation compare to the costs.

It is also assessing the current operating model, their location within the Department of Infrastructure, and future potential use of the lines.

Systra last carried out a review of heritage rail five years ago when it found the railways bring between £4.5m and £22m of tourism spend to the island.

This latest review looks at whether the heritage railways could be used to provide regular passenger and freight services, and assess the appropriate level of investment in the track and rolling stock as well as the extent of public subvention.

The cost benefit viability of each major section of the lined is being assessed and alternative uses considered of railway assets found to be no longer required.