New tram boss Emmanuel Vivant loves ring of made-in-Hong Kong label

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 5:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 5:01am

The "ding ding" sound may be an iconic feature of Hong Kong Island's streets, but the signature trams from which it emits are special in more ways than one - all these vehicles are manufactured on the city's shores.

And the new tram boss, Emmanuel Vivant, is proud of this fact. The French mechanical and civil engineer was promoted from general manager of Hongkong Tramways to managing director this month.

A modest factory at the tram depot in Sai Wan Ho produces 15 aluminium trams a year. It does not go as far as obtaining the raw materials locally, but every piece of a tram, big or small, is made in Hong Kong.

"I'm very proud of it," Vivant, 33, who has lived in the city for two years, said. "It's very unique and it's probably the last manufacturing facility standing on Hong Kong Island."

Other cities in Asia had even spoken of buying their trams, he said without elaborating.

The company has a fleet of 161 trams, of which 36 are of a new model introduced in 2010.

Ageing trams were renovated. "We will always retain part of the older trams because we think they belong to [the city's] history," he said.

Vivant, who lives in Wan Chai, is a passenger himself. He does not take the tram to work at Sai Wan Ho as he wants "to be in the office as early as possible", but he does so on the way home and on weekends.

Patronage had dropped from a daily 230,000 five years ago to 200,000, Vivant noted. His focus was to provide better services, such as a panel indicating arrival times that the company has been testing at the Whitty Street depot for two months.

"We have to manage contradictory objectives. The public as a whole wants us to preserve the icon, and we are committed to doing it. But our day-to-day passengers want services that are comfortable, reliable and quick."