Trams revert to foot-powered gongs
WHILE the rest of Hong Kong hurtles towards premature obsolescence, the trams are proving once more that old methods can work best.
After two years of using electric air horns, tram drivers are now under new instructions to go back to their 90-year-old foot-powered gongs.
Except in absolute emergencies, wandering pedestrians will be warned off the tracks with the traditional ''ding ding'' instead of a massive blast from the horn.
The reason? People thought the horn was just too loud.
''There were complaints. People thought they were too noisy,'' said Ian Hamilton, director and general manager of Hong Kong Tramways.
The horns were introduced two years ago and have had a dramatic impact on the number of accidents involving trams.
''It went down by 44 per cent,'' said the firm's operations manager Allan Leech. ''I think what happened is the drivers found they were getting a much better reaction from the public so they tended to use it for everything.
''Now we have had them all in for retraining. We told them to use the foot gong first just like they always used to. If there is no reaction or if there is a sudden emergency then they should use the horn. Obviously safety is most important.'' Mr Leech said some of the complaints were directed at the wrong target. ''We have had complaints from areas where the trams do not even run. The public light buses use a similar horn and I have stood myself in King's Road, heard a horn and blamed the tram and then turned round to see a public light bus.'' The only trams in the fleet which do not have the horns are the two open-top tourist trams.
The trams started running in 1904.
The car, double-decker buses and the Mass Transit Railway have failed to wipe out the trams, still one of the most profitable businesses in the territory and at $1.20 for a ride of more than 10 kilometres one of the world's great travel bargains.