In Tynwald today the current Department of Tourism
& Leisure Minister announced that one of the Island's
major tourist assets, the Manx Electric Railway, would not
be open for business this year north of Laxey, bringing
widespread disappointment to the thousands of people who
travel on the line each year and giving the Island's already
battered tourist industry a further hammering. Consultants Report that closed the line undertaken
by CDL Collinson Dutton Ltd It is not suggested that recent work undertaken by
RMS Locotec is the reason for the closure
Manx Electric Railway Laxey-Ramsey Line Closure
From the very fact that this announcement has been sprung on the Manx public so suddenly and so close to the start of the summer season it can only follow, if we are charitable, that it took the Minister, that popular fellow, at whose desk the "Buck Stops" by surprise. It will be remembered that the same Minister assured Tynwald in December that the only amendments to the 2007 summer service would be 'minor adjustments to the timings of trains'. If this was the "intention" of his Department (as he stated it was) then why a matter of weeks later has this intention been forestalled? Presumably his assurances must have come from what he was told but it was his duty to enquire thoroughly. Our experience has shown that he is, nothing if not thorough, in issues of cash at any rate.
His is the responsibility for depriving already depressed Ramsey of the MER tourist pound this year. His is the responsibility for depriving children and their parents of the trip of a lifetime. Visitors will have booked to come to the Island to ride on the Manx Electric and especially its most attractive section, that between Laxey and Ramsey.
Mr. Earnshaw made the decision to close the Manx Electric in its entirety for the winter period supposedly to allow such infrastructure renewals to be made good and now we are told this is not long enough. It is barely acceptable that the Manx public should be deprived of the Manx Electric's services during the quieter months but to subject visitors to the Island, who have paid considerable quantities of their hard-earned cash to get here, to a reduction in tourist amenities, and one that is operated by the very Department that should be encouraging visitors beggars belief. Throughout most of the line's 115-year life track work was undertaken whilst at least a skeleton service continued operating. Common sense would lead to the conclusion that there is little reason that this could not continue if the will was present.
Each year the track is inspected to ensure it is both safe and satisfies Health & Safety requirements, yet the Department commissioned a further Consultants report, at taxpayers expense doubtless, why? Are they trying to get it condemned? Surely this funding could have been channelled into repairs that are now deemed necessary. Whilst the Manx Electric Railway Society wishes the Manx Electric to be not only a pleasant ride, but one that is inherently safe it is our belief that the current situation, if handled correctly, could have been wholly avoided.
And now he cannot get the line open again; something that we suspect, knowing this supplanter of the Minister of Fun, will please him. Please the Man who took away our Pop Festival, who wants to pave paradise in the form of the Villa Bowling Green and Put Up a Parking Lot. His latest bright idea being to greet travellers on the MER arriving in Ramsey (if the line ever opens again) with a Multi Story Car Park and Bus Interchange; what and utterly charming conclusion to one of the prettiest rides anywhere; and what a fine introduction to Ramsey Shining By the Sea. This is the man who has so little interest in the Manx Electric Railway that he wants to reduce it to a representative sample with no backup of the once fine tram fleet.
This is our Minister of Tourism.
Some Ministers have a lucky, popular touch; this is the Minister of Glum. To him we say; In the Name of God Go. You have let the Manx people and in particular the people of Ramsey and the North down. Be gone with you, we have all had enough.
The Manx Electric Railway Society calls again for his resignation.
Track Renewal Work currently being carried out by RMS Locotec
In response to the emergency question in Tynwald today the Island's Chief Minister. Mr. Tony Brown MHK, announced that he is 'happy to review as a matter of urgency' the decision by the Minister regarding the closure of the Laxey-Ramsey section of the Manx Electric Railway. He has arranged an early meeting with Minister Earnshaw and his officers and will revert to Tynwald with the outcome. Additionally the Chief Minister has 'also agreed with the Minister for an urgent enquiry to be undertaken by an independent person to report on how the situation arose, and to publish the findings'. Mr. Brown has also made the CDL Collinson Dutton Ltd report available for the public to view at the Tynwald Library in Douglas and on-line at the Isle of Man Government's website.
Further to the emergency question tabled in Keys on February 26, Tynwald today approved funding for work to be undertaken to put right a single track (landside) between Laxey & Ramsey and which will hopefully allow some degree of temporary Manx Electric Railway service between the two points sometime during July. Track work is due to commence in April with the seaside line being dealt with over the winter 2008/2009. This reversal of decision has no doubt been brought about by the level of concern expressed both in Tynwald/Keys and, perhaps more signifcantly, by the extent of public comment, both on and off the Island. It remains to be seen just how much damage has been caused to the Manx tourist industry following the widespread bad publicity as a result of the closure announcement, especilly when many were of the opinion that there was an alternative in the first place. It would now appear that there was a viable alternative.
Following works undertaken to the land-side track the Department of Tourism & Leisure have announced that the line between Laxey and Ramsey is to re-open to the public on Saturday, July 19. In a press release the Minister for Tourism stated 'In March this year, when I asked Tynwald for funding for renewals, on the Laxey to Ramsey section of the line, I promised we would endeavour to reopen a single line for the months of August and September. I am therefore very pleased we have beaten the deadline by two weeks, and in addition, managed to put in a temporary passing loop which will mean an improved timetable over that which was envisaged in March. This is a fine achievement and I wish to thank everyone who has contributed to the early reopening including contractors, RMS Locotec, consultants CDL, the whole railways team under the leadership of John Kennaugh and, of course, our customers for their patience and understanding'.
From July 19 services over the northern section are scheduled to operate from Laxey at 10.15am and every hour until 5.15pm with departures from Ramsey at 10.25am and hourly until 5.25pm.
If you have comments regarding the 'temporary' closure of the line and subsequent events please contact the Manx Electric Railway Society at the usual postal address or by e-mail at [email protected]
In Tynwald today the current Department of Tourism
& Leisure Minister announced that one of the Island's
major tourist assets, the Manx Electric Railway, would not
be open for business this year north of Laxey, bringing
widespread disappointment to the thousands of people who
travel on the line each year and giving the Island's already
battered tourist industry a further hammering.
Consultants Report that closed the line undertaken by CDL Collinson Dutton Ltd
It is not suggested that recent work undertaken by RMS Locotec is the reason for the closure
Like many people we were amazed to hear on Manx Radio today the
Torusim Minister was not going to allow the MER to run between Laxey
and Ramsey this summer. How can a railway that was running trouble
free last year suddenly be deemed as unsafe now - or as has been said
according to CDL the track is 'unsatisfactory'. Whilst we do live
across and perhaps it is somewhat rude to criticise Mr. Earnshaw, in
previous interviews when I have heard him on the radio he does seem
to have very little grasp of his job as Minister of Tourism and
Leisure. Listening today on 'Talking Heads' I think Julian Nutter
said all the right things and more than likely reflected the views of
many Manx people. There has been a lot of negative statements
regarding the closure, and very little positive. If Mr. Earnshaw had
said we have looked at ways of running a reduced service with either
temporary speed restrictions or by using single line working it would
have gone a long way to reassure the many people involved. As far as
I can gather he has not said any of these things, and more
importantly I have not heard any statement saying that the necessary
work is going to be carried out. As so many people are saying, Mr.
Earnshaw it really is time to go. Not knowing the make up of staff on
the MER, I presume there is a P-Way Superintendent or similar, what
are his feelings about his railway suddenly becoming unsafe. Also
presume there is a Head of Railways, but no word from him at present.
Hope someone, somewhere on high will take note of the feelings of so
many people, and listen to the MERS and get this sorted out before it
is too late.
I come over to the island every year for the railway galas, the MER has always been a bit rickety which is part of the charm of the MER. I would assume that with all the millions spent on track renewal over the past years that they would have done the worst bits first. If this was not the case then someone should be accountable for not ensuring that happened. If the railway is so bad why has it not been mentioned before so that work could be done on them bits instead of the planned work over the winter. Leaving it this late before bring it to light is beyond belief. Why they waste money on consultants when money could be spent on maintenance I dont know but it seems to be the in thing these days everywhere. All consultants do is produce a report to cover their backs and justify their fees then walk away leaving everything in turmoil. Why does the minister not trust the people that always inspect the track. Everyone is worried about getting sued these days and it would seem the minister is covering his back. I feel sorry for the people of Ramsey and it will also lose the MER a lot of revenue that could be spent on maintenance, it will also miss out on the Ramsey sprint day during the TT a big revenue earner for the MER. Will the cost of explore tickets be reduced in line with the reduction of service, I doubt it.
I feel that I should let you know that I am currently seriously considering whether I should go ahead with my planed Isle of Man holiday, which will coincide with the official enthusiasts events, as well as the events organised by the MER30 group. I will be speaking to my enthusiast contacts, and the proprietors of the hotel at which I am due to stay, before making any decisions. In the meantime, I would be very grateful for your assessment of the situation; in particular, whether there is any possibility that the decision will be reversed so that the whole of the MER would operate during 2008.
This is obviously a back door attempt to reduce the MER until there is no MER anymore! The Minister should come clean and admit that he is not interested in the Isle Of Man, its history or its heritage. Neither is he interested in offering public transport for locals or visitors. The MER generates a lot of money for the Island as a whole through the tourism spin off from the MER it is a very short sited policy to close down the MER. Also a public relations disaster for the Island. If The Rt Hon. Charles Kerruish were still alive the situation would never arise. When will the Isle of Man learn not to use or trust either Consultants or Accountants? The Minister should do the Honorable thing and resign.
While I do not keep abreast of all Manx politics, I was very surprised by the news that the Laxey-Ramsey section of the MER is to remain closed during this summer. I am inclined to agree with your press release and find it very surprising indeed (not to say incredible) that the track is in so poor a state that no summer service is possible. I should have thought rather that most of the track is in a much better state than it has been for many years, since so much of it has been relaid in the last few years. (We have visited the island eight times since 1983, most recently in 2006.) Perhaps The IOM has become infected with the health and safety culture which now blights the UK mainland. There should be a concerted campaign to reverse this decision - not least from the Ramsey Town Commissioners. There should at least be some sort of service during the peak months of June, July and August. The proposed alternative bus service could not easily serve the stations between Glen Mona and Ramsey, unless it goes by a very circuitous route, as the main road and the MER do not run parallel to each other and some of the minor roads are hardly suitable for buses. I cannot believe that there is any conspiracy to close the line completely after the very heavy capital expenditure of recent years and the general determination of your government to support and preserve the island's heritage. At present our home here in thrUK is up for sale and we hope to move to the Island as soon as it is sold.
As a Manx taxpayer, who knows nothing about how to run the MER, I am disgusted that so much of tax payers money has gone to the maintainence of the line, with it seems, little to show for it. Now it is going to be shut for the most profitable period of the year, with no thought given to the tourists who make a special (and expensive) effort to get here, and no thought for the locals who support the railway. Laying on vintage buses will not provide a proper service for those who want to visit Maughold, Ballaglass, etc. Mr Eanshaw is arrogant to think he knows best and will not listen to public opinions. The sooner he is replaced by someone who gives a damn, the better.
I shall be very disappointed to miss out on my tram ride(s) to/from Ramsey in the summer. As has been said, Laxey to Douglas is nowhere near as picturesque. The minister will soon become the minister for Ex-Tourism, and he will then have nothing to do - is this the aim? Keep up the good work.
Apparently the track of the Laxey to Ramsey section of this unique railway has suddenly become unsafe for use,despite the fact that most of it has been renewed over the last few winters. Usually if problems do occur the service remains in operation, speed restrictions and/or single line working are instituted whilst the problems are solved. Look back in time Mr Earnshaw, set your TARDIS for 1967 when a large section of rail and roadway at Bulgham Bay fell into the sea.What happened then??? The service continued uninterrupted, working to either side of the gap. Thats how to run a railway service, NOT to shut it down when the going gets tough! The infrastructure of the MER is in a better shape now than it has been for half a century, thanks to a rolling programme of works over the last ten years or so.Tynwald has given its confidence in the future of the line and put its money where its mouth is! Now YOU Mr Earnshaw, wish to close part of it down on what appears to be no more than a personal whim. This isnt Network Rail or the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. This is a heritage tram service and it is located in, and belongs to, The Isle of Man. Its the job of your department to look after, cherish,promote and above all OPERATE it! If you can't,then let someone else do it.
Our Minister for Tourism seems to have not the slightest pride, enthusiasm, or even interest in the tourist attractions and services which he should be defending and promoting. There are too many unanswered questions about this affair. Was the second inspection intended to produce the result which Mr. Earnshaw secretly wanted ? If he had the result last year, why did he later change his mind after his December announcements? Does he now imply that recent track renewals have been a waste of money and that the RMS Locotec work is sub-standard? Will the second report be made public? Is it the thin end of the wedge? Perhaps he would prefer complete closure and abandonment. And is there any possible connection with rumoured plans for the development of the Ramsey terminus site? Perhaps more will be revealed, but there is no doubt that as a Tourism Minister, Mr. Earnshaw is a complete disaster. It would be interesting to know the scale of the Transport Department staff involvement in the decision not to operate to Ramsey in 2008. Best wishes for success with your efforts.
It does seem odd that the closure for safety reasons had been announced at the start of the tourist season. It cant even be claimed to be vested interests as the same management run the buses and MER. Quite how the minister seems to think vintage buses will cope with some of the hills on the main road from Laxey to Ramsey needs discussion. Its hard enough for the modern low floor DAF or Dennis Tridents to grind up the hill out of Laxey to the headland. I dont relish the idea of that climb on a crash gearbox Leyland PD1! Would it be possible to run single line working to avoid the worst section of track? I seem to remember that slw has been used over the years for engineering works and for special events like steam on the MER. With an hourly service and the emergency crossovers it shouldnt be difficult to arrange. Looking in the Signalling Atlas by Peter Kay arrangements exist for staff and ticket working.
As an engineer I find it incredable that the northern section of the MER can suddenly become unsafe. There were no issues in the running last year such as speed restrictions. If one or two issues have now occured why not repair them and restart later in the season. As a resident of Ballaglass Glen I have lost the only public transport link. As a small community we use the tram for both pleasure and every day transport, so its back to the car to add to parking problems and increased carbon emissions. As a resident of the Isle of Man I am ashamed embarrassed and sad that a world class piece of heritage can have been so grossly mismanaged.
When I discovered that the tram line was to be closed I was really annoyed and so were my parents. Although we don't live on the island my grandmother lives there as did my great and great, great grand parents. I've been coming to the island all my life (44yrs). My parents and sister will be holidaying on the island in july for 1 month, bringing with them her 2 yr old son. I myself will be holidaying for 2 wks in August with my family of four. Last year I was over in August & then again in December. All of us having to pay costly ferry prices and renting cottages for the duration. One of our high lights is making the trip from Ramsey to Douglas on the Tram. The island has already lost alot of its unique-ness over the years. Finally people are trying to keep hold of the things that make the island unique and they should be helped and commended. I already belong to Peel Heritage Trust because I feel so strongly about preserving the area. I am planning to live on the island within the next five years because I love it so much. It seems to me that people are trying to change the island too much. If you don't like what the island has to offer then stay away....
Is this yet another attempt to close this section completely due to the Buglham Bulge area?
As a regular commuter on this line (ever since I was organist in Laxey Church, living in Ramsey, from 1967-69, with services every Sunday attended by tram, and had to go to Douglas by tram every Saturday for piano lessons) I must say that it is with shock and horror that I read of the plans to close this section of line. I remember the Bulgham Bay episode from that time, part of Manx history and heritage which should not be allowed to disappear or be forgotten. As a pupil at Ramsey Grammar School I remember friends coming in by tram every day, from Maughold and Cornaa. I had wonderful trips out to Port Lewaigue and Port-e-Vullen by tram, not to mention Ballaglass, Dhoon Glen, Minorca and Glen Mona. Is all this to disappear? The Isle of Man will become a poorer, less interesting place to visit if this line is allowed to close. The MER is unique. It should be a world cultural heritage site. If it is allowed to close, the IOM deserves to lose at least 50% of its tourist income, in my humble opinion. It is bad enough having lost the steam railways to Peel and Ramsey. They in themselves were at least as interesting as many of the world cultural sites otherwise given priority treatment and investment. Don't give up. Fight for the continued survival of this wonderful cultural asset!
Will there be any refund on Rover Tickets, when a large part of the system is not available?
This is an appalling decision. The Laxey to Ramsey section has had £6.3 million worth of track renewal work since 2000 but now, according to Mr Earnshaw, the line is unsafe and will not be opening for the 2008 season. His announcement to Tynwald on Feb 20 was very short on details. What section of the track is unsafe? Is it necessary to close the Laxey to Ramsey section for the whole season? Is the recent trackwork sub-standard? If so will the contractors be taken to task over this? Is the closure permanent? Mr Earnshaw has acted in a very high-handed manner and the people of the Isle of Man are entitled to a far more detailed statement of this state of affairs than has been forthcoming. Many people (visitors, regular travellers, new residents) tell me that the Laxey to Ramsey section is the more attractive and picturesque ride on the MER and even colleagues of mine who only occasionally travel on the MER were completely dumbfounded by this decision to say the least. My main fear is that if the ride terminates in Laxey many visitors will not bother going to Ramsey on any connecting bus and travel instead on the Snaefell line. The DTL will then say that the service was little used and therefore announce the permanent closure of the Laxey to Ramsey section. As others have said here, it could be the thin end of the wedge. I accept that Health & Safety regulations are more rigorous now but I would urge the Dept of Tourism and Leisure to think again about this closure.
Myself and my wife have visited the island regularly for the past 20 years and although neither of us could be classed as transport enthusiasts we derive a great deal of pleasure out of travelling on the trams and steam railway. In recent years the steam railway was subjected to partial closures, the MER was late opening one year and now we hear that there will be no tram service between Laxey and Ramsey this year. Our first visit of the year is already booked however it is now highly unlikely that we will consider any further visits this year.
It was a little more hopeful to hear Chief Minister today in the Keys announce that an independent person is to carrry out a full review of the proposed closure. Let's hope the appointed person is more positive in his outlook. Let's also hope that Mr. Brown keeps to his word today in that the Government is fully committed to having the whole MER open as soon as possible and looking forward to a long term future.
Can Manx Tourism survive any further kicks in the teeth? For years it has been the opinion of many that Tynwald is simply not interested in the Tourist Industry and they have done their best to run it into the ground. It is readily apparent that the hard lessons learnt in the 1970s have been forgotten or just simply ignored eg. the Transmark Consultancy, closure of the Laxey/Ramsey section and the subsequent rolling of political heads. Mr Earnshaw could do a lot worse than read the history books. Hopefully common sense will prevail and win the day with the help of more competent Manx politicians. Surely the Manx people and businesses which rely on Tourism, particularly those in Ramsey and the North of the Island will be calling for Mr Earnshaws head. Do the decent thing Mr Earnshaw, step aside and find something else to tinker with. Give somebody who is genuinely interested in Manx tourism and the Manx Electric Railway a chance to do their best. I suggest that those who feel strongly enough make their thoughts known to Mr Earnshaw, his phone number is readily available in the IoM Phonebook. Mike Goodwyn must be spinning in his grave at this latest outrage.
Calling for the Tourism Ministers resignation is not enough. Reading the CDL report highlights a systematic management failure in asset maintenance. The 'Head of Railways' did not know what state the track was in - anywhere on the island - no routine inspections. No routine maintenance, e.g. fishplates not oiled. Very poor standard of repairs, e.g. 0.5M lengths of rail used to replace broken rails, wrong size fishplates fitted. I think pointed questions should be asked of the railways management and their government masters about their fitness to run a railway/tramway.
A gold plated report which must have cost a lot of money. Some of the defects are of a minor nature not really all that important on a light railway with low running speeds. I have skimmed through it. It's difficult to pinpoint locations without walking the line. The MER ought to be a World Heritage Sight. It has the original rolling stock and the route goes through some stunning scenery, particularly on the Ramsey section. This would help to secure the MER for ever and ever. One wonders whether Ramsey Sprint Day during the TT could see a single line working to Ramsey. Cancel the normal service and send 10 sets down to Ramsey in the morning and bring them back in the afternoon. How on earth are the large numbers all going to get to Ramsey without the MER? Also cancel all maintenance for that day. The SMR could also be cancelled.
I am flabbergasted by the proposal to close the most scenic section of the MER this summer. As a very regular visitor to the Island and a huge fan of the historic transport systems it will definitely make me re-evaluate my visit plans for the year. I am very involved with one ofthe larger standard gauge heritage railways on the mainland and we manage to operate safely on a fraction of the money recently spent onthe MER. Surely it is time to stop lining the pockets of consultants and contractors, build a strong in house maintenance team, re-instate basic regular checking and maintenance regimes and ensure that the MER is NEVER allowed through mismanagement to get into this state again.
Last year, 2007, I bought my family to the Island for the first time in 15 years and had a great time but for the MER. All the way up I was telling my children what a great railway it is, fast, clean, efficient and very regular. Can you imagine my horror and disappointment when I saw what I thought was a WINTER timetable only to be told that it was in fact the high summer one. I was sad to find that the cars are no longer fast, 15-20mph, or regular. In defence they are still clean and efficient and go through the most spectacular scenery on the Island but at a painfully slow pace. I can remember, in the late 1980's, using the trams as they were faster than the busses, and cheaper, however as an ex-permanent way worker, Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Rly, I did notice a few places that could use a bit of work, new rail and spot sleepering, but to call it dangerous I think not. I think that you have to sack this Minister as he will destroy the scenic jewel in the crown of the Manx rail system, it could be the Northern line all over again and I understand that nearly cost all of Tynwald their jobs, and re-opened the Laxey-Ramsey section last time it was closed 'temporarily'. One last question, to the minister, Is it your plan to transport mountain bikes from Douglas to Laxey then let the people cycle to Ramsey on the old roadbed? I am in total support of the Railway and would like to help in any way that I can to save it. The U.K. has lost too much of it's railway heritage in the last 40 yrs to allow another Beeching in, I mean no slight to the Independence of the Island, the MER must be kept intact, rebuilt and have all its equipment repatriated, how about a working museum at Laxey or Ramsey, the latter could use it more than the former, and restore all the surviving cars over a period of years? Just a thought..
I've just ploughed through the CDL report and photos - very comprehensive, but it didn't need a team of consultants to point them out - albeit it is a well documented paper. As an engineer, it makes dreadful reading as the most basic of maintenance has been ignored. The consultants spent from late Nov until mid Jan walking the line, carrying out a visual inspection and cataloging the faults - all 83 pages of them ! This could have been done by MER staff at quiet times, as an essential 'rolling programme' from which priorities could have been decided for off-season maintenance. Little record has been kept of where work has been carried out, and thus no state of assets register. The faults didn't just develop in the last couple of years - the photos show the lack of investment in routine maintenance as well as poor short-term engineering. Prioritising seems to have been ad hoc with little scientific basis, and betrays a laissez faire culture that seems to have been tolerated for many years. It was probably the most that could have been done within the budget allocated, and if the true state was known, silence was down to political expediency. Apart from poor records, a couple of other issues are fundamental and bring into question the expertise of engineering management, such as the lack of greasing and omission of electrical bonds. To say that some bonds were vandalised and not replaced is a poor excuse - these short multi strand lengths of copper are hardly worth stealing - you'd need a lot of them and no scrap merchant would want to touch them without supporting paperwork of their source. Usually exothermic welded directly onto the rail, they can't fall off or be unbolted, only cut. However, from an electrical conductivity point they are essential to minimise leakage currents and corrosion. The MER's 550V DC system is fundamentally flawed in encouraging corrosion, but they're stuck with it. AC systems and today's ease of conversion to DC at point of use wasn't around when the MER was built. London Underground (The Tube) is supplied at 630V DC. The consultants looked at a number of scenarios for operating the section from Laxey to Ramsey this summer, as no commitment had been given to accept their report and rectify the faults. It may well be that the amount of work cannot be done in time, anyway. No cost has been put on the many deficiencies but many £millions will be needed. The public may well ask "How on earth did it get into this state?"
I really don't know what to make of the state of affairs that have
been unfolding over the last seven days. I suppose the Right Hon
Adrian Earnshaw MHK is playing the politician's card in which he will
want to be perceived as acting with commendable responsibility and
alacrity in drawing attention to such hideous and dangerous corrosion
on sections of the line between Laxey and Ramsey. And just in the
nick of time, too. Phew, what a hero!
Obviously the image of a motor and trailer laden with passengers, weighing possibly seven tons or more each, coming to grief over crumbling sleepers, widened gauge and disintegrating track is the stuff of nightmares.
The question to ask is how on earth the extent of the damage had accumulated before the specialists walked the line between November 2007 and January 2008. Something must have raised the alarm for the MER to call them in so soon after services had wound down for the main 2007 season. We all know rapid deterioration to the metals on the ground and overhead can be sudden because of the exposed nature of the terrain and local climate.
It has been stated drivers would not necessarily have spotted the defects. Fair enough. But what about the competent permanent way crews carrying out maintenance work. Is there any system of routine checks? There is reference to vandalism in places. An observant eye would have seen the worrying onset of these defects and, realising the implications, would have drawn attention to the matter many months ago, I'm sure. It seems there was some knowledge of the worst sections. Parts were patched up with the like of closure rails and these have become a part of the danger. Even a small proportion of these faults would have been obvious to a layman such as myself had I taken a typically ardent enthusiast's trek (or trespass) on foot along the line. Many executives these days seem reluctant of act without the (questionable) expertise of consultants. It is apparently perfectly acceptable business practise to pay a consultant to state the obvious. And then act all very surprised at the findings.
I must admit that this latest development raised my eyebrows. This is mainly because the one strand of good news coming out of the embattled MER in recent times has been the steady and reassuring investment in track and overhead maintenance and the schedule of repairs being drawn up for the future. I know how exposed this section of the route is but I find the spread of deterioration astonishing given the attention paid to the line.
On the other hand, the advanced state of corrosion engulfing the MER is hardly a bolt from the blue. It is indicative of the steady decline the railway has endured for years. Let us look what are we faced with.
The Conservation Policy was a document drafted with the well-meaning intention of protecting the line and its assets from the twin threat of insensitive planning and, er, dereliction. But we now know that this Policy is, in effect, dead considering the lack of any official endorsement since Mr Cretney's replacement 16 months ago. During this period, there has been the stated intention to dispose of large sections of the irreplaceable Victorian and Edwardian fleet. Why is a stored, secure fleet such a big headache? It's both criminally dictatorial and lacking in imagination to just blandly mention it should be broken up.
The uncomfortable feeling of growing disquiet over the directionless drift of the MER, undoubtedly for decades the Cinderella of the Island's transport organisation, has been growing over the past five years. There has been some softly, softly downscaling:
It's not so long ago (during the 90s) when priceless tramcars were
being abandoned virtually to the elements, which of course was one
reason why the Conservation Policy being was adopted by the previous
Minister of Tourism.
The unsettling stance taken by the current Tourism Minister towards the MER has in no way brought about any confidence or optimism which the railway desperately needs.
His act of infamy, to suggest disposing of parts of the fleet, would work as the opposite to economising and leave the system deprived of reserves. The MER is admittedly proving a big expense in the face of declining passengers; brought about, in part, by all the downscaling. Perhaps some bureaucrats do see it as a hopeless liability when wrestling with budgets for tourism and transport. They will point to the very smart bus fleet (undoubtedly so by British standards) and the improved running of the Steam Railway since the completion of the Iris project. But for that attitude to prevail would be to condemn one of the greatest man made assets the Isle of Man possesses.
Meanwhile, they have found it so easy to float a proposal for a multi-storey transport hub in Ramsey. If this questionable development - already attracting opposition - were to go ahead it would undoubtedly cost millions. Surely some of this money would be better spent on repairs to secure the future of the northern MER.
Investing in a treasure such as the MER is surely a show of confidence in the Island's future; tourism trends could change yet again in our lifetimes. Whatever happens, it will always remain a leading pioneer in the development of the tram throughout the world. Something most Manx people and residents who settle on the Island are proud of. Invest in the future by realistically maintaining an incomparable working example of 19th century engineering. Please, please do not let it continue to wither towards an undeserved fate.
To do so would unleash rare and intense media scrutiny from across. Speaking as a journalist myself, the Island normally escapes outside coverage on its political issues simply because of its separate identity and a general misconception in the UK that the Isle of Man is somewhere remote or, quite often, is bizarrely confused with the Isle of Wight.
The Island's politicians cannot count on this remaining the case if they are to carry on pretending that the iconic and historic Manx Electric Railway is not being run into the ground.
The CDL report highlights numerous problems on the Douglas to Laxey section as well as the Laxey to Ramsey section .Why only close one? Conspiracy?
In the past decade I have visited the Island at least once a year (sometimes up to three times when possible) in order to travel on the rail system. I also made a point of coming in the winter to travel on the MER even with the reduced service. Of course this has not been possible in the past couple of years and as a result I have confined my visits to the Summer months. The highlight of my visits is the northern section of the MER. If this will not be in operation this year I see little reason to visit the Island.
I must express my extreme disappointment and dismay at learning that the section of the Manx Electric Railway between Laxey and Ramsey will remain closed throughout the summer season. Over the past eight years, I have visited the Island a number of times, and have always made a point of travelling the entire route of the MER on each visit. I believe the Minister for Tourism and Leisure ought to hang his head in shame for taking this disappointing and regrettable decision, he has quite clearly shown that he knows nor understands anything about railways (nothing new there, we have the same problem here on the mainland!). As a travel agent myself, and one who specialises in rail travel, I really cannot understand the minister's logic, unless there are genuine and gravely serious safety reasons behind the decision to keep the nothern section closed. The current minister should consider his position with the greatest of urgency, and preferably conclude it to be wise fall on his sword and resign thereby affording himself some form of honour and dignity. Another issue the Minister is quite categorically in the wrong over is that to withdraw, and at the very worst scrap some of the Manx Electric's trams. I know for a fact that the beautifully preserved tramcars of the MER are one of the reasons many people still choose to visit the Island for a holiday, and this criminal act of wanton destruction will do nothing to benefit the tourist industry the Minister is responsible for developing. Whatever happened to the Conservation Policy so energetically and enthusiastically written and enforced by the former Minister, the Hon. Mr. Cretney? It would appear this has been unceremoniously shredded and consigned to the waste basket by a new Minister who quite obviously does not care about the Manx Electric Railway, Tourism or over a hundred years of history. This decision is neither big nor clever, rather it is the mark of complete and utter ignorance, and is wholly regrettable. I wish you all the best in your campaigning to reverse this nonsense.
My wife and I have been regular visitors to the Island and enjoy the Trams,trains and culture. We were planning another 14 day holiday this year staying as usual in Douglas. We never bring our car, we prefer to use public transport and always buy Rover Tickets. In view of the announcement that what is one of the best parts of the railway will not be open we have decided not to come to the island and will take our holidays in England. Thus depriving the hotel of 14 nights booking, and all the cafes,and other tourist venues of our money. I am sure we are not going to be the only "missing visitors" this year and hope the hotels etc. can survive.
KM & JM
My family visit to the island would most certainly have been given second thoughts for 2008, had the reduced M E R service been announced at an earlier date than has proved to be the case. Whilst the facts of the matter may well lie in an area of Health & Safety which is of public interest and concern, it beggars belief that past maintenance regimes have been so shortsighted or ineffective as to require loss of service and seasonal revenue at such short notice. As with absolutely any provision of public transportation, be it road, rail, air or shipping there is NO POINT whatsover if it is not integrated into the overall picture. Whilst the mainland of the U K still makes way for more commuter congestion with ever more "independent" motoring, the Manx offering to it's tourist lifeblood has to date not required massive influxes of visitors "attached" to their vehicles by the provision of giant fast ferries. PLEASE find a way to retain the integrated and successful provision of public transport which has contributed to that difference that brings visitors back to a holiday experience they wish to repeat time and again.
My friend and I have spent a great deal of time and money. (The isle of Man is not an easy place to get to from Norfolk) It is a long story but involved two visits to the local station numourous phone calls, money refunds etc and now I find the whole line is not running. We would not have made the effort to go to the island if we had known.After all the problems getting there it will be a long time before we will consider going again. If the Minister knew the problems in full he would not bother either. No we are very upset that we have wasted all this effort and much money to find part of the line closed.
I have been coming to I.O.M. for the best part of fifteen years and have spent many happy hours this particular mode of transport. Does the 'Minister' have any idea of the loss to the tourist industry if he goes ahead with this closure. Obviously he could not care less. Perhaps he had inspiration from Dr. Beeching in the UK.
Unless this changes I won't be spending my holiday in the IOM this year. I had intended to visit the island. Not now. It seems to have fallen into the hands of moneyed persons with no interest in visitors, or even interest in its own indigious population.
It's nearly 20 years since we visited the Isle of Man, and we are in the process of booking for the summer. However, the main reason I want to come again is to ride on the electric railway, which to me is one of the great railway journeys in the world. I'm a steam buff really, and work on a couple of preserved lines in England and wales, but for me it is the electric line that is the real gem. I shall wait and see what happens before booking as I would like to travel the full length of the line again, and it is a great shame that it has been partially closed. I read the comments on your website with great interest, and do hope your influence will have some effect. A bit of work on the serious bits, and a few speed restrictions - maybe a reduced service - at least that would be something. Good luck
I was appalled to read of the closure proposals. I first visited the island in 1963 & last in Easter last year. During the intervening period I have sent lots of colour slides of all aspects of the Isle Of Man transport scene to a transport group in Rosario, Argentina. They are appalled about this news. Please forward these comments to the correct quarters. Interest in the islands transport scene goes further than the Irish Sea.
So the march of the dreaded Health & Safety deprives us of another of life's pleasures. Isn't it sad how the H&S cloak is used by so many people as an alternative to doing their jobs properly? Thank goodness that there are some sensible politicians on the Island who see this disgraceful situation for what it is. And thank goodness, too, for the MERS for alerting us to the situation and putting pressure on the people who should be doing something about it. My response, I am sorry to say, will be rather negative. Although it is not easy to get to the IOM from Suffolk, I was going to fly out from London City, book a nice room at the Merton, drink a few gallons of Okells and travel about on the wonderful railways. But it seems that the Minister is not interested in encouraging me or my money, so I will stay away this year and hope that I am made to feel more welcome in 2009. In the meantime, keep the pressure on with your campaign and I will look forward to the time when I can revisit the Island in its full transport glory.
I have visited the Isle of Man for many years since I was 9, I am now 53. Indeed over these years I have seen many changes to this beautiful Island. The Manx Electric Railway and the Douglas horse trams seem to be worst hit as are the many Hotels in Douglas closed or converted to luxury flats.Over the yeras the MER services have been cut and cut and I remember some yeras ago when they closed the Laxey to Ramsey section down completely. I signed a petition then and gladly it re-opened but are we going through the same phase again, will it close this section down I hope I am wrong but I think it will only be a matter of time. Gone is the evening service so what next? This also applies to Douglas horse trams the service is now every 20 minutes or so, doesnt operate in an evening. The number of people visiting the Island as reduced but for the many people who still go to the Isle of Man surely the government MUST keep these historic forms of transport. Many other countries would welcome such historic transport to bring people to visit so why not your government?
I shall be taking my annual weeks holiday on the island at the end of July, I can't say how dissapointed I am to have just found out about the partial closure to the MER. The highlight of my holiday is the MER and would be very dissapointed if its not in service. I have read about the hope it is ready in time and feel it would be a great shame if not. IF the island is to encourage tourism it should be making sure one of its biggest attractions is open.