’Passenger safety must come first’

"Passengers who were on board the tram that ran away out of control down Snaefell mountain have welcomed the suspension of services.

Public transport chiefs say they ’reluctantly’ decided last week to suspend operations indefinitely, given the ’nature and urgency’ of the changes identified as part of the investigation into last month’s incident.

’Passenger safety must come first,’ said the Department of Infrastructure.

Tram no.2 lost power to its main brake as its descended from the summit on August 4, careering out of control across the road at Bungalow before it was brought to a halt with the manually-operated fell brake.

Victoria Smith, who was one of the passengers on board, described the situation as ’absolutely farcical’.

She said: ’I’m still awaiting an apology for them nearly killing me and my family! At least they won’t be able to hurt or traumatise anyone else for the time being.’

Another passenger Nick Douglas said services should have been suspended at once.

He said: ’It was clear to everyone on board car no.2 that we nearly died - 50m more and we would have gone into Laxey valley a near sheer drop of 300ft.’

Julian Nutter of the MER Society said the brake system fitted in the 1970s is vulnerable to a loss of current or a drop in compressed air and claimed the fell brake is not an adequate back-up as it is very hard to apply when the tram is travelling at speed.

He raised concerns over maintenance and the lack of a fail-safe system where the brake is on by default.

’We are saddened but relieved that the service has been suspended,’ he said.

’Our first concern is that the island is not confronted with a disastrous loss of life with appalling consequences to the tramway and the tourist trade - as well as those on board.’

Mr Nutter claimed the 1970s brakes appear to have been failing increasingly in recent years - and suggest this was a consequence of ’re-active’ maintenance on the Snaefell line.

He alleged: ’We have good reason to believe that the air supply necessary for control systems to work has not been regularly maintained as it should be.’

The DoI said after the incident it made changes to the trams and operating procedures to improve safety. It had then commissioned a report from a UK tramway consultant.

’Significant improvements have been achieved since early August but it is clear the work that remains to be done will be completed sooner and more effectively if it is the sole priority of the engineering and operational teams,’ it said.

* Meanwhile, claims have emerged of an earlier runaway tram incident in 2014. For the full story see next week’s Examiner."

Read the article on Isle of Man Newspaper's Website

The 1970s re-equipping of the SMR's cars with ex Aachen motors and electro-pneumatic control gear is detailed in Mike Goodwyn's 'Snaefell Mountain Railway' history which was first published in 1987, which is available to view HERE.


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