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New site sought for restored tram after train station deal abandoned

9 June 2021

Plans to relocate a restored antique tram to Newry Train Station for historical and heritage purposes have been abandoned, the Reporter can reveal.

As we reported in February 2019, The Council’s Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism (ERT) committee agreed to enter into a partnership agreement with Translink to host the refurbished tram which once operated between Bessbrook and Newry.

According to a Council report brought to the committee by then ERT director and now council CEO Marie Ward, the overall purpose of the project was to create welcome focal points at the two entrance points into the Ring of Gullion (Camlough and Cloughoge)

Originally the tram, once refurbished, was to be sited in the centre of Camlough roundabout where it would be seen by many visitors to the area, however, due to concerns with vandalism, the Council entered into talks with Tranlink to see if the tram could be sited at the train station.

At the time Cllr Roisin Mulgrew (Sinn Féin) proposed - seconded by Cllr Harry Harvey (DUP) - that the council enter into partnership agreement: “I am absolutely delighted this agreement has been reached, I think it’s a win-win for everybody and I am more than happy to both acknowledge the work that has gone into it and to propose that we go ahead with this.”

The tram lay derelict in a field outside Camlough for a number of years before it was restored to its former glory by students from Southern Regional College at a cost of £10,000.

It was located in a council storage facility in the Albert Basin that was set on fire last month.

However, when asked when it was due to be relocated to Newry Train Station, a spokesperson said that the previously agreed move was no longer happening and that discussions were underway with other stakeholders.

“One of the items stored on site was a restored Railway Tram which has now been relocated to another Council storage facility,” said the spokesperson. 

“A full inspection of the Tram is to be carried out but at present damage appears to be limited to smoke damage. The council will continue to work with its partners to complete official reports and prepare an estimated cost of damage.”

He added: “Following a long period of liaison with Translink, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has decided not to locate the Tram at the Newry Train Station. The council is in the process of considering an alternative location in partnership with various stakeholders.”

A Translink spokesperson told the Reporter: “Following discussions with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, agreement was reached that the restored tram would not be located at Newry Train Station.’’

Despite asking both organisations why the move fell through, neither offered an explanation. 

The tram will now remain in council premises in Greenbank while a new location for it is sought.

It was wrecked by vandals in June 2019 who broke into the council yard in Albert Basin and smashed the inside of the carriage.

The council was heavily criticised at the time for ‘carelessness’ in overseeing the care of the tram before it was due to be moved to Newry Railway Station as part of an NI Rail legacy initiative. 

Meanwhile, the council said it is working with the Fire and Rescue Service to establish the cause of last month’s blaze.

It took firefighters over two hours to bring the fire under control.

The Reporter understands that council wheelie bins, flower pots and gardening equipment were destroyed in the blaze.

The Fire Service said they believed the fire was started deliberately .

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