Ease congestion in crowded Central with electronic road pricing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 September, 2015, 5:53pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 September, 2015, 5:53pm

I refer to the letter by Shing Chun-yui ("Trams will need to be modernised", September 1). I agree with your correspondent that the Hong Kong tram has irreplaceable cultural importance, and therefore should not be scrapped.

In fact, it plays a crucial role in Hongkongers' day-to-day lives. Not only are they popular with tourists, many residents use them to commute to and from work, as they are cheap and actually not that slow. I do not think that the passenger usage will decline to a large extent in the foreseeable future.

Your correspondent has suggested several ways to help prevent trams from being axed. However, I cannot see these suggestions as being feasible. In fact they may be counterproductive.

The first suggestion is to have air conditioning in all the interiors of trams.

Many of the trams do not have air conditioning, so converting them all could prove very expensive. As a consequence, the tram company would be forced to raise fares and fewer Hongkongers would travel on them. If they all had air conditioning, would they still be considered as environmentally friendly as they now are?

The second suggestion is to speed up the trams. The tram gives busy Hongkongers an opportunity to slow down. This is good because the pace of life is so fast. The trams give us some relief from the hustle and bustle of our lives.

If we speed trams up, we are demeaning their cultural value. Also, faster vehicles will be far less appealing for tourists. And as with the air conditioning, making the trams faster would prove costly and, again, fares would have to be increased.

The last suggestion is to provide an estimated time of arrival service at stops. Undoubtedly, this would be convenient for passengers. Nonetheless, having such a service would mean installing this information at all stops, which would be a major and costly exercise.

When it comes to the problem of traffic congestion in the central business district, we should come up with many other ways to deal with the problem.

For example, the government could launch initiatives which could encourage the use of public transport, such as electronic road pricing.

It is not right for anyone to blame trams for the congestion problems in Central.

We should value them as a unique and incomparable cultural heritage and be doing all we can to ensure they continue to travel on our roads.

Yeung Pui-gwen, Sha Tin