Trams best for Kai Tak transport

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 4:04am

I refer to the report ("Trams may suit Kai Tak better than monorail, operator says", April 29).

The head-to-head comparison of capital and operating costs makes a very convincing case for trams. Also, the costs for trams are well proven, whereas monorail costs are speculative. Every government budget for capital infrastructure expenditure is routinely exceeded by several hundred per cent and the proposed monorail system would be no exception to this notorious fact.

The break-even fare for a monorail would doubtless be two to three times higher than the projected cost of HK$8.50, eventually requiring a big government subsidy. But the break-even fare for a tram can be guaranteed at no more than HK$3.

Although trams take up road space, a monorail would also block road space with pillars. But trams are at street level, which makes them more convenient for passenger access. An overhead monorail would require lifts at every stop for the infirm and elderly. Tram stops can be arranged as frequently as required. On Hong Kong Island they are often only 100 metres apart.

When Veolia took over Hong Kong Tramways, the tracks were in a terrible state. There were big cracks in the rails almost every 10 metres, causing loud "bang-bang" noises and jolts for the passengers every two to three seconds.

As a chartered engineer specialising in environmental matters, I complained bitterly to the Transport Department and directly to Veolia about this inexcusable noise pollution, because the tracks on Johnston Road run right alongside my office building.

However, to the enormous credit of Veolia, it has systematically replaced the tracks with modern, seamlessly welded rails over the past two years. Now the trams glide past silently and gracefully and the only sound they make is the pleasant "ding-ding" of their bells.

Veolia has now proved that it can run a world-class tram system in Hong Kong. As a former critic, I now congratulate the company for its efforts and dedication to improvements in the past couple of years.

Trams have survived in Hong Kong for more than 100 years, through typhoons and wars. They have a proven track record and they are much loved and used by everyone. I am therefore certain that Veolia would install a state-of-the art tram system at Kai Tak if given the chance, and that the firm would maintain it perfectly.

So please do let's give trams (and Veolia) a chance at Kai Tak.

Peter Bentley, Mid-Levels