The Infrastructure Minister has suggested the Treasury is holding up plans to improve the main road around the Fairy Bridge, despite evidence of structural failure.

Chris Thomas was asked when improvements will begin by Jason Moorhouse (Arbory, Castletown and Malew) in this week’s Tynwald sitting.

Having initially said there are no immediate plans for improvements, beyond repairing damage to the Fairy Bridge, Mr Thomas, when prompted by Mr Moorhouse, gave a rather grave view of the state of the road.

The minister said that he did have plans for the works, which were scoped last year.

Mr Thomas said: ‘We have structural failure or near structural failure along a long part of that road [from Ballalonna Bridge to Brown Cow Hill] which means that the life is expected to be less than 10 years.’

He added: ‘The department knows that this is part of the Isle of Man’s strategic highway network that needs work, it needs to be done.’

Unhappy with the lack of work forthcoming, Mr Moorhouse said that the road was often one of the first seen by visitors to the island and asked about the wider impact this could have on the island’s reputation and the perception visitors have of it.

Mr Thomas said this was ‘one point of view’ but that the DoI had decided against progressing with plans as ‘in May 2022 various parties inside and outside the government raised concerns regarding economic disruption, as well as the economic need for this highway’.

He added: ‘After reflecting on these concerns, the department decided to withdraw that project, not to issue these tender documents and stand down the design team.’

Bill Henderson MLC asked the minister if he didn’t agree that while economic disruption was a concern for repairing the road, it would be even worse if nothing was done to improve it.

He said: ‘Would he agree with me that a disintegrating road is even more of a disruption to the economy, especially with the holes and disintegration on that route and really to drive over there, would he agree with me, you’d need a tracked vehicle, such as a tank to get your way through it.’

Mr Thomas agreed and said that was the result of surveys of the road taken in 2019 and that the road needed overlay work in some parts and full reconstruction in others and he was ‘delighted that at least one member of Treasury supports that and I look forward to working with Treasury on this’.

He added: ‘Basically the department has been working on this for 20 or 25 years, so far as I can tell, most recently in the last seven or eight years, the alternative routes around the Old Castletown Road and St Mark’s have been planned for when the road has to be closed, because not only is it a bad road, it’s a narrow road.

‘So bridges have been strengthened and everything is prepared to go for the months when this would be done, so I look forward to working with the Treasury.’

Mr Moorhouse said that delays were putting ‘short term inconvenience’ over long-term benefits.