The Department of Infrastructure has announced that it will take on responsibility for the operation of the Douglas Bay horse tram service for the 2016 season.
The Department has stepped in to ensure the continuation of the trams between April 30 and October 30 this year following the decision by Douglas Borough Council to end the service. The temporary solution will allow interested parties to continue discussions about the possibility of preserving the long-term future of the horse trams.
The Department of Infrastructure will operate the service this summer, with additional support provided by the Department of Economic Development, Manx National Heritage and Culture Vannin. The horse trams will become part of the Isle of Man Government’s 2016 heritage transport offering, alongside the Steam Railway and Manx Electric Railway.
The Department of Infrastructure is not seeking any extra funding from central government to run the horse trams. It will put in place a plan aimed at reducing operating costs and generating additional income.
The stables, tram sheds, horses and tram cars owned by Douglas Borough Council will be used by the Department under the terms of a proposed licence.
Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne MHK said:
‘I am delighted that many different parties have been able to work together to secure a temporary reprieve for the horse trams, especially as 2016 marks the 140th anniversary of the service. The horse trams are an important visitor attraction and an iconic part of the Isle of Man’s cultural heritage. This short-term solution means we will be able to honour visitor bookings for the summer season. It will also allow more time to consider any workable options to retain the service beyond 2016.’
‘It is clear that substantial investment in new track and buildings is needed if the horse trams are to continue in the years ahead. Planning approval for a new route for the tram tracks would also be required. Those are major considerations for the future, but for now I wish to thank the politicians and officers who worked together to achieve such a positive outcome in a very short timeframe. I would also encourage people to seize this opportunity and make the most of the horse tram service this summer.’