Will Snaefell line be allowed to reopen?

With less than 10 days to go before the planned start of its season, there’s still uncertainty over whether the Snaefell Mountain Railway will be allowed to re-open.

Isle of Man Transport says it is still planning to open as scheduled on March 29.

But a prohibition notice remains in place.

And inspector of railways Bernard Warden says he cannot yet make an announcement about whether he will sign off approval for the line to re-open – given the status of the investigation into last year’s runaway tram incident.

Services were suspended, belatedly, at the end of September following an incident on August 4 in which a tram lost power to its brakes as its descended from the summit station.

It careered out of control down the mountain and across the road at the Bungalow.

Fortunately, the motorman was able to bring the tramcar to a halt using the manual fell brake and none of the 40 or so passengers on board were hurt.

Mr Warden, who heads the Health and Safety at Work Inspectorate, revealed the investigation is nearly complete.

He told the Manx Independent: ‘We are close to our investigation coming to a conclusion.

‘We would like to have, for the benefit of all parties, a conclusion sooner rather than latter.’

In his capacity as inspector of railways, Mr Warden said he has to be satisfied that any heritage railway needs to be capable of operating safely before he signs a letter to the chief secretary allowing services to resume. He said it would be wrong to comment on whether the Snaefell railway would begin operating again next week.

Mr Warden said: ‘It would be inappropriate for me at this stage given the status of our investigation.

‘We are working very closely to establish exactly what the position is. An announcement one way or another is likely to be made within the next week or 10 days.

‘All I can say is that the engineering staff on the SMR are working very hard to make sure things are as they should be.’

Mr Warden said it would be inappropriate to comment on the importance of fitting failsafe brakes in the consideration of whether the line should reopen as planned on March 29.

Asked whether the accident report would be made public, he replied: ‘For something as significant as this we would want a summary of the investigation report made available as soon as appropriate.’

A spokesman for IoM Transport said: ‘We are planning to open on March 29.

‘An investigation being undertaken by the Health and Safety at Work Inspectorate remains ongoing and regular meetings are taking place between the two parties ahead of the start of the season, which is planned for March 29.

‘The Department of Infrastructure has engaged a range of specialist advisers and suppliers to determine what changes can be made to the Snaefell Mountain Railway trams to modernise the current safety systems.’

The department has been working for sometime on modernising equipment that was last upgraded in the 1970s and even then that was with second-hand equipment.

The department is hoping to find a way of introducing the latest technology without compromising the historical integrity of the heritage railway.’


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