The chief executive of the Department of Infrastructure stepped down with ’immediate effect’ on Friday after eight years in the role.
Under his leadership, he oversaw the Douglas promenade works, Richmond Hill road reconstruction project, Liverpool landing stage project and the reconditioned diesel locomotive.
The Douglas prom works, aimed to redesign much of the promenade to improve traffic flow, junctions and footpaths, have been beset with multiple delays since work began on September 17, 2018, after Tynwald members approved it.
The £26 million project was originally supposed to be completed by October 2020 but has been pushed back in part due to Covid-19 as well as lack of resources.
Work still continues and Infrastructure Minister Tim Crookall refused to give a completion date in a recent House of Keys sitting.
Meanwhile, a reconditioned diesel locomotive bought in 2015 by the Department of Infrastructure (DoI) didn’t move until 2019. The £420,000 locomotive came from the United States in December 2013.
Around £250,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent on repairs.
The Liverpool landing stage was also delayed and costs soared for the scheme.
It was due to be open in February 2021 but was then put back to July next year and is now meant to be completed in March 2022 at the earliest.
The budget for this Manx taxpayer-funded project was estimated to cost in the region of £25m in a 2016 report to Tynwald, but in the 2018 budget the cost was put at £30.5m. In November 2019, the cost was estimated at just over £38m.
An update was given in May of this year by then Infrastructure Minister Tim Baker where it was admitted the project was running millions of pounds over budget.
Currently over a year behind schedule, the scheme’s delays and disruption were caused by Covid-19 and cost an estimated extra £5m and rising.
It was lambasted by Steam Packet chairman Lars Ugland who said costs had soared because of the poor design by an American engineering firm.
Another project that saw costs rise exponentially was the roadworks on Richmond Hill in Douglas.
The scheme, carried out by Colas, which has a contract with the DoI for an annual surface dressing programme, was done in August 2018 at a cost of £50,015. The work was defective so fixing this was estimated to cost up to £500,000 - 10 times the price of the original scheme.
This led to years of disruption for motorists.
Other projects that have been problems include, a speed bump in Crosby that had to be lowered in 2017 after it damaged several vehicles because it was too high, a £861,000 scheme to resurface a 2km stretch of Shore Road, Rushen which got underway in 2019 but with the road made one-way, diverted traffic clogged up the main road through Colby, plus the painted bike signs on the pavement had to be replaced as they were deemed sub-standard. Very few cyclists chose to negotiate the cycleway as it was bumpy and too narrow in places.
Planters erected on Strang Road in Braddan in 2016 acted more as obstacles as motorists had to avoid the chicane of objects jutting into the road. These were later replaced with speed bumps.
Mr Black had worked for the government for 21 years, previously serving in senior roles with the Department of Community, Culture and Leisure, the Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading, and the Department of Local Government and the Environment.
He said: ’After more than eight years in the Department of Infrastructure it is time for someone new to lead the department.
’By choosing to leave now I can make room for the new minister to appoint someone who will be in post for the duration of the new administration.
’My job has certainly had its pressures and challenges but these have always been outweighed by the sense of public service and by being able to work with my fantastic colleagues.’
Emily Curphey has taken over the role of interim chief executive.