The Isle of Wight Council has embarked on the first phase of its planned project to modernise the Shanklin Cliff Lift. This first phase of works will see all the ageing machinery and lift cars within the lift tower completely upgraded and modernised with brand new equipment; this will ensure that the lifts will be in a serviceable state for years to come.
It was originally anticipated that a lift would be open at Easter and close completely in mid-April to enable the replacement of the plant and machinery in the motor room. However, the recent discovery of a major electrical fault on the remaining operational lift car means that the lift is totally inoperable at present and, therefore, will not be able to open as planned for the Easter holidays. However, this complete closure has enabled works to begin ahead of schedule.
Councillor Shirley Smart, Executive Member for Tourism, said: “This latest setback is a huge disappointment, but when you consider that the lifts date back to 1957 and that they are exposed to the elements every day, it’s not really surprising.
“What’s most irksome is the fact that the required parts are no longer made or stocked anywhere, so we cannot open the lift as originally planned. We deeply regret that there will not be a functioning lift in operation until the summer, but the early start on the programme gives us every opportunity to get ahead of the planned programme of works.”
Once the first lift opens, works to replace machinery on the second lift car will get underway.
In January, the council appointed contractors Temple Lifts to undertake the works to the motor room commencing after the Easter holidays.
The temporary bridge installed earlier last year will remain in place until next winter, when it will be replaced by a permanent structure. To enable the bridge works to begin without the potential delays due to weather over the winter months , the lift will be closed earlier than usual at the end of September.
Councillor Smart continued: “It has been well documented that Shanklin cliff lift has had a lot of problems with reliability and we had the issue with the previous walkway being closed for a period this last year for safety reasons. This is a very complex project that will take time and residents, tourists and businesses will need to accept there will be periods when the lift is not available.
“However, we recognise the importance of the lift during busy periods and this is why the programme has been specifically drawn up to ensure the lift will be opened for the main holidays this year.”
David Thornton, Chief Executive of Visit Isle of Wight, said: “I am pleased to see this project to support the Shanklin tourism industry is progressing and will help to protect the industry, and provide a great service for visitors to the town and beach for many, many years to come.”
Councillor Jon Gilbey, Mayor of Shanklin and Isle of Wight councillor, said: “We welcome the commitment to reschedule the £800,000+ works to enable this iconic amenity to re-open as soon as possible, and that the substantive investment secures the longer term viability of this tourist attraction. However, are concerned that businesses, and the Council, will lose income while the lift is out of action.”
Councillor Richard Priest, Shanklin town councillor and Isle of Wight councillor, said: “We are working with Council Officers to arrange a meeting with the local Hotel Association and Esplanade based businesses, to ensure they are fully informed of the current situation, as well as briefed on the medium and long term plans for the lift.”
Should there be no major delays to the full project, it is anticipated the scheme will be completed and open for the 2017 East holiday period.
The overall cost of the works to the lift has been estimated up to £760,000 which has been funded from the council’s capital programme.