Press Release from Douglas Borough Council
It is with very great regret, following detailed discussions and meetings, that Douglas Borough Council is to discontinue the Douglas horse tram service because of the increased financial burden on Douglas ratepayers.
The decision to terminate the service was passed at a special meeting of the Council on Thursday January 21 2016.
The decision follows a proposal by the Council to amalgamate the Tramway Terrace stables site with the tramway hub at the Strathallan site, a scheme estimated, as of December 2015, to cost in the region of £2.9million. When this was received at a joint meeting of the Executive and Regeneration and Community Committees in December, Members determined the scheme was not financially viable and presented a number of unresolved issues, and therefore decided not to progress the project.
The proposal was to finance the scheme by a thirty year loan, which would have cost the Council £4,800,000 over its life.
Key factors determining the resolution to end the service, which comes in the wake of the Council’s budgetary projections ahead of setting the rate levy on January 27 for the 2016-2017 financial year, were the service’s year-on-year deficit, currently running at £263,000, coupled with the associated loan charge equating to an annual impact on the rates of over £420,000.
Council Leader Councillor David Christian MBE JP said: ‘The Council must always act in the best interests of the ratepayers of Douglas. To continue operating the horse tram service would place an unacceptable level of burden on the ratepayer, not only for the coming financial year, but also for the foreseeable future. The Council recognises the important contribution the service has made to the Island’s vintage transport heritage but Douglas, as with all local authorities, is having to make difficult decisions to fund, protect and develop key services.
'The Council has a duty to face and adapt to stark financial realities, to maintain a firm grip on its finances and deliver value for money to the ratepayer. Were the Council to continue operating the horse tram service it would be failing in that duty.'
Regeneration and Community Committee Chairman Councillor John Skinner said: ‘I should like to take this opportunity to thank the tramway staff for their hard work and long-standing commitment to the service, also to the many local residents and visitors who have supported the horse tram service over the years.
‘The Council recognises the affection in which the horse tram service is held, both in the island and around the world, but these are difficult times that demand rigorous examination of expenditure, current and future. Against this background the horse tram service is, regrettably, no longer sustainable.’
The Council will be relocating the service’s horses to good homes and offer the rolling stock to transport museums, either in the Island or the UK, while the Tramway Terrace/stable site and the Strathallan site are to be offered for sale. This will therefore mean that the horse trams will not operate for the 2016 season.