Quieter trams could easily be the norm on entire route

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 January, 2011, 12:00am

I have exchanged several letters with Hong Kong Tramways about the work undertaken on their tracks.

I have pointed out that when they repair rails by welding overnight, which does not cause any disruption to traffic, they usually make the broken rail joint even noisier.

I wrote to these columns about broken and badly repaired tram rails, particularly along Johnston Road where I live ('No need for noisy trams', October 26). Following publication of my letter, the company undertook a lot of repairs along Johnston Road and you could hear the loud 'clunk-clunk' noise almost every nine to 18 metres.

As a passenger, you could feel this bump in your seat and it was a very unpleasant experience.

Hong Kong Tramways wrote to me to say they 'strive to maintain tram tracks at their optimal performance by conducting regular maintenance checks'. But in return I asked them if 'optimal performance means badly repaired and excessively noisy rail joints at the same frequency as along Johnston Road'.

The company did not reply to that question, but pointed out that the only way to repair rails so that they were noise-free was to completely replace the track.

This would require partial day-time road closures for which they would need the permission of the Transport Department.

It would take a long time to get clearance.

However, when I returned from holiday over Christmas I found that the 'clunk-clunk' tram noise along Johnston Road next to Wan Chai MTR exit and the building where I live had stopped.

The sudden drop in noise level from before Christmas was so extraordinary that I had to lean out of my window to check the trams were actually running.

Their noise level was now less than the general traffic background noise.

All I could hear was the pleasant ringing of the tram bell.

When I examined the track, I saw that the broken rails along that short stretch had been repaired and the weld ground down so it was the same smooth level as the original rail. This effectively stopped the 'clunk-clunk' noise .

I am very grateful to the company for making this improvement.

However, I must now ask a question on behalf of all Hong Kong residents living alongside the tram lines. If Hong Kong Tramways could undertake these effective repairs at Johnston Road, at night, without the need for road closures, why can't they do this along the whole track?

Tammie Yip Chi-ping, Wan Chai