The future of Ilfracombe’s Dotto land train is in doubt if no one comes forward to run the service.

The £170,000 train went into service in 2013 but did not run in 2019 after operator Filers said it no longer wished to run it and no-one else could be found.

Now, owner North Devon Council is proposing to lease the land train to Ilfracombe Town Council, to run as it sees fit.

On January 6, the district council's Strategy and Resources Committee will hear that if an agreement cannot be reached with the town council, then the train should be disposed of and the money used for Ilfracombe projects.

The report from the council's economic development officer added: "Filers now no longer want to run the service. It is more of a sideline for their business, and they do not always have the resources to focus on it. They also object to having to pay the business rates on the container which is used for storing the Dotto.

"All of the Dotto expenses are the responsibility of the operator, but there is no charge made for the use of the train, and any profit goes directly to the operator.

"A brief conversation with industry experts suggests that Dotto services work in larger towns and cities where there are larger visitor numbers to make it viable, but in towns such as Ilfracombe, it would always be a 'hobby' business."

The report recommends the district council negotiate with the town council about it taking on the train.

But councillors will also be presented with seven options, which are as follows:

1. Retender the opportunity in early 2020 and hope for a more positive response.

2. Retender the opportunity in early 2020, with the council agreeing to pay the business rates on the container (in the region of £980) and hope for a more positive response having addressed the issues of the previous operator.

3. Put resource in to helping the town council to operate the service in the hope that it may succeed this time.

4. Lease the Dotto to the town council for a certain period for it to run as it sees fit. A clause would need to be added to prevent the Dotto being left unused in the container for any length of time.

5. Sell the Dotto and ring-fence the funds for other Ilfracombe projects (eg implementing the seafront master plan etc.)

6. Offer the Dotto to other towns within the district (Barnstaple, South Molton etc) to run a service.

7. Another option to be suggested by the committee.