Operator seeks more sole lanes for safety

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 December, 2009, 12:00am

Hongkong Tramways is seeking more exclusive lanes to reduce the accident rate at black spots - including the junction in Causeway Bay where two trams collided last month.

Because they travel at low speeds, trams are not usually thought of as accident-prone, but last year, the company recorded 200 accidents, one-fifth of them at one black spot, Johnston Road. The incidents ranged from collisions to rough braking that threw passengers around.

While Transport Department figures show that the number of accidents involving trams had declined over the years, the managing director of Hongkong Tramways, Bruno Charrade, said problems at certain areas were getting worse.

'The accident rate in, for example, Johnston Road, is pretty high, as traffic there is chaotic at all times,' he said.

Illegal parking and trucks and cargo vans unloading goods always occupy one of the three lanes on Johnston Road, leaving only two lanes to cope with the heavy traffic coming from Central.

At busy times, vehicles cut into the tram route to overtake other cars, sometimes causing tram drivers to brake heavily.

Rumsey Street, Ka On Street, Tin Lok Lane and Percival Street were also identified as black spots.

Charrade said the disappearance of reserved tram lanes had contributed to the problem.

Authorities have continued to open reserved tram lanes to other vehicles over the years - especially around Wan Chai and Fortress Hill - as traffic has increased. Only 43 per cent of the tram line has lanes that are reserved solely for trams.

'We understand many forms of transport are competing for limited road space,' Charrade said. 'We don't want to ask for something unrealistic, but we hope some compromises can be made.'

That included adjustment in certain road regulations, such as banning vehicles from making turns at busy junctions, and giving trams back their priority at critical junctions.