Isle of Man - It Rained Yesterday!


There was extremely heavy rain on the Isle of Man today and it led to unprecedented deadlock on the main arterial routes out of Douglas the Capital.

As workers started to leave for home late evening traffic snarled up. This sort of thing is not unusual in TT week when roads are closed. Traffic crawls at snails pace through the inner core of the capitals roads but last night was different because it soon became apparent there was no where for the traffic to go – in the end people were advised to stay at work until things cleared.

Now I have no doubt (and its already started) this will be blamed on an unprecedented weather event but in fact the problem is much more deep-seated than that. There has been weather every bit as bad as this periodically over the years.

The DOI (which at one time was the old DHPP/Highway Board) has had its work force cut to the extent that what used to be ongoing gulley and culvert maintenance is no longer undertaken.

To further complement the problem (and this is not something new it’s happened over a decade or more) employees with local knowledge about problem spots in relation to road and land drainage have left the service.

I think it’s highly likely that the severe flooding in the Colby area (for example) could have been avoided if the type of routine maintenance once undertaken was still in place (the same pertains elsewhere) – the thing is there are not the men now and not the local knowledge.

Peel Road (out of Douglas) was reconstructed not long ago and why it flooded will need to be examined but one of the reasons roads flood is quite simple land drainage has been neglected through lack of men and resources.

I worked for the Highway Board (Rivers and Bridges section) from 1980-86 and at that time there were four dedicated R & B gangs working solely on land drainage out of their own depot.

Cleaning water courses manufacturing and renewing culverts, widening rivers, drainage channels and creating flood plains (as happened at Ballasalla, Foxdale and Glen Auldyn in the early 1980s after a much more serious weather event than today’s).

Indeed, following the 1980s episode the R & B section was strengthened by two additional gangs (short term) and much more specialised equipment tracked excavators and dump trucks procured.

Another feature of the Rivers and Bridges section was that after a serious weather event ‘river inspection’ was carried out by the gangs to check that rivers and watercourses were not obstructed. Bridges were checked for any damage either cracking to the arches or scour of the abutments. When was the Laxey bridge that failed last checked?

In addition to the R & B sections the two ‘divisions’ as they were then of the Highway Board (later DHPP) used to undertake the gulley and culvert cleaning that I referred to above starting in the autumn so that drains were ready for the worst that winter threw at them. I doubt now if that is done and to be fair I doubt the Department (of Infrastructure) has enough staff to do it.

Throughout the early eighties there was also a major programme on ‘main rivers’.

The Dhoo and Glass (especially from NSC down through Pulrose bridge) were drained and dredged. Leigh Terrace was reconstructed and the river opposite what is now Tesco dredged.

Dredging and realignment of the Neb was undertaken in the West and major works carried out on the Sulby River (again flood plains) were constructed.

Major weirs were constructed in several places on key main rivers.

A totally new drainage channel was constructed along the side of the mountain above Foxdale and the culvert by the Baltic replaced and upgraded.

The Killane River was dredged completely from the back of the Wild Life Park to the sea. The Lhen Trench was similarly dredged totally for its total length.

In the south the Dumb River (again a man made trench) was drained and from the Castletown road to the sea deepened in quite a considerable operation that required rock blasting.

There are other examples including work to retain sections of roadway likely to be prone to landslip.

I doubt that major land drainage schemes on this scale have been undertaken since and I doubt that the routine maintenance of drains and gulley’s is on a par with what it was.

You get what you pay for! The Highway Board/DHPP became the DOI and its workforce at the sharp end has been decimated. It must have been desperate for the few staff who still remain trying to cope with what was thrown at them yesterday.

The old Highway Board used to be regarded as something of a joke but last night that joke came back to bite us all on the backside.

We are told that today there is going to be a multi agency meeting to address the problems. At one time you didn’t need multi-agency meetings you had one organisation the Highway Board and it did the job!


Issued by: The Celtic News



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Photo: Laxey Bridge collapse.


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