The Douglas Horse Tramway which runs for a couple of miles along the promenade of Douglas , capical of The Isle of Man, is now unique in the Northern Hemisphere, the very last survivor of a means of transport that was once commonplace in towns and cities before the development of the electric tram.
In a statement that simply beggars belief, Douglas Borough Council on The Isle of Man have announced that it is to close, citing substantial financial losses. The announcement itself is an awful example of weasel-worded bureaucratese, formulaic doublespeak that waffles about having a duty towards ratepayers. One paper it looks like a bone-headed decision by small-minded bean-counters.
The Council recognises the affection in which the horse tram service is held, both in the island and around the world, but these are difficult times that demand rigorous examination of expenditure, current and future. Against this background the horse tram service is, regrettably, no longer sustainable.
When I visited Douglas last summer the place smelled of money. My guess is the tramway stands in the way of somebody’s lucrative property deal, and the platitudes about value to ratepayers is a load of horseshit.
I’m reminded of Jonathan Calder’s observations about Jersey. That island once had a prosperous tourism industry and a thriving agricultural sector, but its status as an offshore tax haven meant the financial sector ended up eating the rest of the economy, such that tourism and agriculture withered away. Is the Isle of Man going the same way?
I went there on holiday last summer. The island’s heritage transport network was the sole reason I chose the Isle of Man as a destination. The Douglas Horse Tramway is a small but significant part of that. Both the Isle of Man Steam Railway and the Manx Electric Railway have had to struggle to survive and came close to closure in past decades, and even the steam railway is a surviving fragment of a far larger network that survived until the mid-1960s. The horse tramway will be a loss, and will diminish the island’s appeal as a tourist destination.
I hope wider councils prevail, and there is still a chance for this idiotic and short-sighted decision to be reversed. There is already an online petition opposing it.