Isle of Man Examiner - 3rd October 2017
“Last month’s runaway tram incident on the Snaefell Mountain Railway, in which passengers endured a terrifying descent from the summit, may not have been the first.
The Manx Electric Railway Society has uncovered a passenger’s account on TripAdvisor from June 2014 which shares remarkable similarities to the experience of those on board tram no.2 on August 4.
The account, from a resident in North Wales, said: ‘The train ride from Douglas to Laxey was brilliant but the mountain tram ride was far from enjoyable. On the way back from the top, the train ran away building speed, to the point that the whole train shook. Looked like the driver was in a panic trying to stop the train without success.
‘A passenger got up to help as it looked like he was fighting to turn the brake wheel, but the door would not slide because of all the shaking.
‘Eventually the driver pressed a button and another emergency brake at the back had to be operated by another person and it suddenly came to a sudden stop with a squealing and a bang.
‘All 43 passengers had to be transferred to another train that had been sent up to fetch us.
‘I would have thought that the drivers would have reassured the passengers that in the event of a runaway they have means of stopping safely but nothing was said.
A spokesman for the Department of Infrastructure said no one he had spoken to in the public transport division could recollect this specific incident in 2014.
But he added: ‘There have been occasions on the Snaefell Mountain Railway when trams have experienced a loss of air pressure or electricity supply and the driver is left with only the fell brake in order to bring the tram to a halt.
‘The time taken to stop a tram in these circumstances depends on how quickly the driver realises he has lost the rheostatic braking before the fell brake is applied.’
All services on the Snaefell line were suspended indefinitely last week as a Health and Safety at Work Inspectorate investigation continues into the August 4 incident.
Passengers have described their terrifying experience as tram no.2 ran away out of control afte losing power to its main brake.
It careered across the the road at Bungalow before finally being brought to a halt with the manually-operated fell brake. Public transport chiefs say they ‘reluctantly’ took the decision to suspend services, given the ‘nature and urgency’ of the changes identified by the HSWI.
Passengers on board the tram that day say services should have been suspended immediately. 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. It said while ‘significant improvements’ have been made since early August, 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.
There was another runaway tram incident in March last year in which vintage Snaefell tram no.3 was completely destroyed when it left the Summit station unmanned and crashed off the track shortly before Bungalow.”