“Some capital schemes on the island’s heritage railways have been delayed by reductions in budgets.

Chief/DoI Minister Alf Cannan addressed these delays in Tynwald this week.

Mr Cannan was asked by Daphne Caine (Garff), who is chair of the Douglas Bay Tramway Heritage Trust, how railway maintenance would be impacted by the reduction.

He said: ‘The list of major schemes impacted by the reduction this year includes the completion of a number of track renewal programmes.’

This also included capital works on the Steam Railway, MER and Snaefell Mountain Railway, while some steam locomotive restoration projects have been paused and some recruitment processes have been put on hold.

Mrs Caine also asked about the ongoing review into the railways and whether SYSTRA will consider reductions in length of lines or rolling stock.

He replied: ‘The terms of reference for the SYSTRA review have been available for some time now, and they do not refer to reductions in length of lines or rolling stock. They do clearly state that the cost benefit viability of each major section of the railway on a standalone and combined basis will be analysed.’

‘Likewise, the terms of reference ask the consultants to examine the appropriate levels of investment in rolling stock when compared to other networks.’

Mrs Caine said that the review does make specific reference to economic benefits and the cost benefit analysis of the major section of the railways ‘on a standalone and combined basis, including evaluation of the impact of length of the horse tramway and extending MER operations to the War Memorial’.

She also asked Mr Cannan whether this was ‘another bite at the cherry’ and whether closure of sections of the heritage network was ‘acceptable’?

Mr Cannan said: ’I think it’s important, Mr. President, that we look at these matters from time to time, and that proper consideration is given to what will be the most sustainable way to operate trams and trains into the future.’

‘And that’s the purpose of doing that in depth analysis is to properly understand the detailed infrastructure costs and the cost benefit analysis so that politically, we can understand how much it costs to run the railways and then make appropriate decisions in terms of funding levels and what sort of appropriate structure might be considered moving forward.’

Tim Glover (Arbory, Castletown and Malew) asked whether given the list of track replacements that were now not being done whether a safety assessment was also being undertaken, to which Mr Cannan said that if there were any issues around safety then these services ‘would not be running’.

Chris Thomas (Douglas Central), who was dismissed by the Chief earlier this week, said that the drop from £4.5m capital budget for the railways to £1.5m in 2024/25, which has been agreed by Tynwald, was a ‘substantial reduction’.

Following further questions from Mrs Caine, Mr Cannan said that the network is a ‘prime asset’ for our island but that ‘shouldn’t prevent honourable members undertaking supporting statements and also prioritising work on the heritage railways and determining in what shape and format the heritage railways should continue operations, because that is in the public interest to do so’.

Mr Cannan later said that he wants to ensure that the railways have a ‘more sustainable footing’ and to ‘identify how and where appropriate levels of funding are going to come from’. “


The Hansard relating to questions raised at this sitting of Tynwald, concerning the heritage railways is available to read HERE


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