A government department has turned down a Freedom of Information request for details about a tram crash for a second time.

Earlier this year the Department of Infrastructure was fined £18,000 after admitting health and safety failings relating to inadequate maintenance procedures.

The Examiner submitted an FoI request for details on an incident which formed part of the prosecution case.

On July 17, 2021 a tram derailed, near Lewaigue, with a passenger suffering a broken leg as a result.

An earlier FoI request seeking publication of any and all reports into the derailment was rejected in May last year on the grounds that it could risk ongoing investigations and prosecutions.


Last month we asked for a copy of all reports, including the incident, hazard and accident report form and accident investigation report, on the basis that the court case has now concluded.

But the DoI in its response said it would not disclose the information while legal proceedings were ongoing and publishing ‘may prejudice the administration of justice’.

We have asked for an internal review of that decision.

After this year’s court case before the Deputy High Bailiff, the department issued a statement to say that the safety of staff, passengers and the public remains its highest priority.

It said a comprehensive review into the maintenance procedures on the MER was carried out following the incident, leading to improvements to those processes as well as additional training for staff.

Another FoI response has given further details about a far more serious accident involving a tram.

In August 2017 a tram careered out of control400m down Snaefell mountain, reaching a speed of 44mph, after its brakes failed.

The crew, anticipating a catastrophic derailment, told passengers to ‘brace’ – but averted disaster by ensuring the warning lights came on at the Bungalow road crossing and finally managing to stop the tram using the parking brake.

Another government department, this time DEFA, had refused an FoI request for publication of the accident report until the conclusion of a court case which saw the DoI fined – again £18,000 – for health and safety breaches.

Details of email exchanges between the then director of public transport Ian Longworth and the Health and Safety at Work Inspectorate were released under FoI earlier this year.

One email to Mr Longworth said: ‘I just took a call from a very concerned gentleman who is over on holiday. He was on a tram coming down from Snaefell this afternoon and told me “it ran away and had no brakes”. He said he felt lucky to be alive.’

Mr Longworth replied: ‘It is not the incident it is made out to be but will have caused distress as the original braking system had to be applied.’

The Inspectorate wrote back saying it strongly advised suspending all services until the braking systems had been checked.

Four days later following the issue of a prohibition notice and the introduction of an 8mph speed limit, Mr Longworth wrote: ‘I am somewhat surprised that you have had any information that is different to my account as I have not given an account to anybody.

‘The report on Manx Radio which is attributed to me is incorrect as I refused to give them a statement or be interviewed.’

Mr Longworth said it was his understanding that the driver first became aware that he was not in control of the tram at the ‘ringing pole’ and could not stop it before the fell rail ended on the approach to Bungalow.

He said the driver then regained the fell rail after the crossing, allowing him to stop. During this period he did not use the wheel brake, he said.

‘I appreciate there is considerable hype in the press which is not based on fact but I’m sure your investigation will resolve these discrepancies.’

On August 21, Isle of Man Transport emailed the HSWI seeking the timescale for a specialist adviser as they were unable to start work on the tram involved to return it to service. ‘As we are still in our peak season, in order to minimise the disruption to our passengers, we request you allow us to return the tram to service as soon as possible,’ the email reads.

Services were suspended, belatedly, at the end of September and only resumed in March the following year.