I spoke briefly with the wonderful Andy Wint on the Manx Radio ‘Mannin Line’, discussing the Isle of Man Government’s plans to dig up Douglas Promenade again – before they’ve even finished the current works.

My view as a local resident is simple: The Government should get the Promenade works done – in their totality – as quickly as possible. The Government’s current plan to lay the horse tram track halfway, and then dig it up again sometime later, is bonkers.

The context

On the evening of Monday 11 May, in a mass email to Manx people, the MyProm communications team issued a newsletter saying:

“Work in creating the new kerb line continues, this should now be completed ahead of schedule with the decision made to remove the single track Horse Tram line. The horse tram line will now terminate at the War Memorial.”

MyProm Douglas Promenade Refurbishment Scheme, May 2020 Update

Subsequently, the Isle of Man Government “clarified” its position in communications to Manx media outlets:

A single horse tram track between the War Memorial and the Sea Terminal will be added on Douglas Promenade at a later date.

The Department of Infrastructure will complete the regeneration scheme on the promenade for Easter next year without the line in place.

However, an area of soft landscaping will be included along the tram corridor, so the tramway can be completed in the future.

Manx Radio, Horse Tram Track to Return in the Future

The Douglas Promenade Refurbishment Scheme then issued a revised newsletter with different plans:

The intention is for the horse tram track to reach Broadway at least by the end of March 2021.

The project will then stop, allowing hoteliers and other stakeholders in the tourism sector badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic the opportunity to resume activity free of any disruption caused by the construction scheme.

Work required to install the horse tram track further south is planned to be completed in due course.

Revised MyProm Newsletter

The reaction

Some people have dismissed this as merely yet another communications debacle – but it is more than just a communications issue. The problem is with the substance. If the current plans had been released initially, they would still have the same underlying flaws:

  1. The process to override our democratic procedures is bad
  2. The actual plan is bad

On the first point, local Douglas Member of the House of Keys, Chris Robertshaw commented about the Department of Infrastructure (DOI) on Manx Radio,:

DOI are totally mishandling this. They are in danger overriding the will of Tynwald. They are in danger of abusing emergency powers. They are thus far showing that they haven’t properly consulted the businesses, nor provided a scheme to cover for them and actually the whole thing creates a fog around the whole contract and cost of the Promenade which those of us who are closely observing it know that up to now it’s been a shambles.

Chris Robertshaw, Manx Radio, 12 May 2020

Mr Robertshaw is right here. The Government’s efforts to circumvent the will of Tynwald is morally wrong. If they want to fiddle with what has been approved by Tynwald, they should do the hard work of making that case and earning the approval of our elected representatives.

Secondly, on the underlying substantive plan, the “corrected” plan is worse than the “incorrect” plan. The “incorrect” plan was to build the Horse Tram from Derby Castle to the War Memorial. The “corrected” plan is to do the same – but then at some stage in the future, dig up Douglas Promenade again and extend the horse tram to the sea terminal.

I can understand the argument for having the horse tram run the full length of the Promenade. I can understand the argument for having the horse tram not run at all. I can even understand the argument for having the horse tram run half way along the Promenade – but to build the horse tram half way, stop working, and then dig up the Promenade yet again to extend the horse tram is bananas.

The IOM Government has been flip-floppingabout the plan for Douglas Promenade since before David Cameron announced the UK’s Brexit referendum. The IOM Government should stop this dithering and just get the work done as soon as possible. Getting the job done will reduce the harm to our businesses and residents caused by the continued indecision and changes. This shambles has gone on for too long.

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