20-second zip ride at The Peak shaping up to be Hong Kong's next tourist attraction

Tourism chief sees it as a must-do attraction, but others raise safety fears and tourists believe the short ride may not be worth the queues

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 August, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 August, 2015, 5:29pm

A zip line is set to be built on The Peak offering thrill-seekers a 20-second ride after the Town Planning Board agreed to relax building restrictions.

But the approval came with conditions attached and concerns were expressed about the safety of riders speeding along the 120-metre cables at 6.7 metres per second.

Operator Greenheart Hong Kong will erect a take-off tower and landing tower on two ends of the Peak Galleria shopping mall, with separate cables connecting the two towers. The take-off tower will be 9.5 metres high, exceeding the mall's current height restriction by about four metres.

But the towers must not protrude out of the envelope of the building and a noise assessment must be conducted. The operator is also advised to communicate with the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) to ensure safety and to follow noise pollution laws.

While the ride might be disappointingly short for some, Commissioner of Tourism Cathy Chu Man-ling said it would be a must-go attraction that would "enrich the overall tourism appeal of Hong Kong ".

Tourist numbers have dropped in recent months and the government also believes it will help to create jobs.

But a member of the board, Dominic Lam Kwong-ki, expressed reservations.

"My concern is safety for the riders and the people underneath the cables. What if people riding the zip line drop objects while travelling on the cable and an accident happens?

"Who will supervise the safety of the zip line? I don't see any comments from EMSD. The department is supposed to regulate rides like this," Lam said.

Josephine Lo Yuk-man, senior town planner of the Planning Department, said the EMSD was aware of the plan but it did not give any opinion during a public consultation.

Saying the focus of the application was initially about relaxing height and area restrictions, Lo conceded that the operator of the zip line had not provided full details about how it would carry out safety supervision and noise reduction when making its application. Lo supported the idea and said the small scale of the project should not affect the landscape of The Peak.

Hang Lung Properties, developer of The Peak Galleria, welcomed the board's decision to relax building restrictions and said it would carry out a technical study with the operator.

Greenheart, a Canadian forestry company, plans to operate the zip line, known as Flightlinez, from 10am to 10 pm at the mall, with capacity to accommodate 120 riders per hour. Flightlinez runs similar facilities in the United States and Canada.

Dutch tourist Arij Verhoeff, 31, thought the zip line would be spectacular, but he was worried about queuing. "If the ride is only about [20 seconds], you might have to wait for an hour. I already waited 45 minutes to get on the Peak Tram."

Mill Leung, 25, from Guangdong, said: "The journey looks too short. Maybe they should build it from the mountains nearby. I want it to pass by some bushes. If it's within HK$100 per person, it is acceptable."

William Chan, 24, a part-time shoe salesman at the mall, said: "It won't help businesses here. Most visitors come for sightseeing, not shopping.

"Maybe it will bring more traffic in the short term."