It began last week when Bill Shimmins, a rarely vocal MHK decided to criticise the “regrettable” decision to prioritise the running of the horse trams during the reconstruction of Douglas promenade.

It will be recalled that Mr Shimmins was Managing Director of the Isle of Man Bank when the decision was taken to close the Kirk Michael, Laxey, Ballasalla, Onchan and Prospect Terrace branches. Having inflicted bank closures on the Manx population he went on to lead the SAVE project which gave serious consideration to (and refused to rule out) the closure of the Laxey to Ramsey MER line.

Mr Shimmins is no lover of the horse tramway, having in the 2016 run up to the General Election told the Isle of Man press that he proposed a reduction of the line to single track running between the Broadway and Derby Castle. He has twice described the horse line (which attracts countless visitors to our Island every year) as a “Sacred Cow”. There was not a word about the railways of the Isle of Man (despite the fact the steam railway runs through his constituency of Middle) in his most recent manifesto.

Question 4 on the Order Paper for the sitting of the House of Keys on Tues, October 22, 2019

What is surprising is that as a cyclist and walker he has now put forward a proposal to reduce the MER and give half of its double track to cyclists and walkers. The Manx public will recall that it was the cyclists and walkers who ran a vociferous and successful campaign to keep the horse tramway off the walkway on the promenade, principally on grounds of danger; so successful were the objectors that they nearly led to the scrapping of the horse line. It is believed that Mr Shimmins was living on the Island throughout that campaign.

The only method by which the Manx Electric Railway could be turned into a single-track line (which would not involve, absurdly, all the trams going north in the morning, and returning south in the evening) would involve massive reconstruction, with passing loops and under modern regulations with extensive computer managed signalling systems. It is therefore somewhat surprising that a Treasury man keen on cuts would advocate what would amount to a rebuilding of the Manx Electric Railway at vast public expense for the benefit of his friends; the cyclists and walkers. A triumph at public expense for the Children of Lycra.

It is incredible that anyone in the light of the Keep the Horse Trams off the Walkway campaign would be so out of touch to think that it was a good idea to put walkers and cyclists next to electric tramcars weighing several tons but Mr Shimmins does.

Were he to get his way a valuable piece of our tourist infrastructure presently in excellent condition would be destroyed so that he could pursue his hobby. The destruction of one half of the MER track would cost a fortune and would amount to another IRIS scheme.

This man needs to be stopped.


The Manx Electric Railway Society,
PO. Box 117,
Isle of Man.
IM99 1JS

Email: [email protected]

Background Information

Originally formed in 1973, the MANX ELECTRIC RAILWAY SOCIETY is charged with the express purpose of protecting and promoting the retention and development of the MER and other Island tramways at a reasonable cost. It successfully campaigned for the reinstatement and re-opening of the Laxey - Ramsey section of the MER during 1975-77. The Society became a Registered Charity in 1978.

The Society proposed the 1993 "Year of Railways", a series of events to mark the Centenary of the MER. Initially brushed off by management who had planned "a special tram with some ham sandwiches", the Society persuaded politicians who in turn put pressure on Isle of Man Transport and the opportunity was eventually embraced, producing some 25,000 extra visitors during the year, and inspired a series of follow up events throughout what was left of the 1990s.

In 1999, the MER Society vigorously and successfully opposed a new bus service, the 11B, which would have followed the same route as the MER, leaving 5 minutes before every tram and charging bus fares at least half the price. This was seen at the time as the biggest threat to the survival of the railway since the Ramsey line closure in 1975.

Since its formation, the MANX ELECTRIC RAILWAY SOCIETY has continued to offer help, advice and assistance to the railway, and remains as a resolute and constant guardian in an unpredictable and at times hostile world.

The MANX ELECTRIC RAILWAY SOCIETY is the only Island based organisation concerned with all aspects of Island transport and pursues an active and direct interest through its comprehensive and fully illustrated magazine, MANX TRANSPORT REVIEW. This journal deals with road, rail, sea and air transport topics, and is distributed free to members. As well as a roundup of news and comment, the magazine contains special features, historical and technical articles and forms a vital forum for the exchange of views.


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