Kai Tak monorail a bad idea

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 2:57am

Several major concerns have recently been expressed by readers in connection with the proposed monorail at Kai Tak.

However, none of these were raised in the letter by Norman Y. S. Heung, project manager, Kowloon Development Office of the Civil Engineering and Development Office ("Practically impossible to accommodate tram system at Kai Tak", May 7).

By far the most important is the safety of the system. In the case of fire or a breakdown of a monorail vehicle there is no ready means of escape unless it is located close to a station. Access to a train stuck over the nullah would be virtually impossible. For this reason it is unlikely that a monorail would be given an operating licence by the Hong Kong railway inspectorate (or its equivalent).

As many of the passengers from cruise liners will be elderly, it is not acceptable for them to queue for lifts to gain access to the monorail.

Those in wheelchairs or children in pushchairs would be virtually barred from using the service.

At the terminal stations, transferring passengers to the MTR above-ground stations would first be required to descend to street level from the monorail.

Presumably the proposals for a tramway would actually comprise a light railway (LRT) similar to those which are in operation in many European and US cities.

Mr Heung may be reassured that modern LRT systems are constructed through pedestrian malls, busy narrow streets (for example, Amsterdam) and along promenades (for example, Seville, Spain) where they operate in complete safety.

The "connectivity of the Kowloon East" central business district can best be served by an LRT system which can later be extended as a network into residential areas around Kwun Tong as demand increases. Basically, a monorail is confined to a single route. Modern light rail vehicles provide "low floor" access directly from street level for pushchairs and wheelchairs.

At busy times, they can be lengthened to accommodate more than 300 passengers if required; this is not possible with monorail trains.

Traffic congestion is not a concern; in the New Territories, the Tuen Mun LRT system operates through Yuen Long using staggered platforms to minimise road-take.

There is no evidence of traffic congestion there; car drivers either use alternative routes or leave their cars at home and use public transport.

Michael Ian Baxter, Tuen Mun