Rising passions over escalator project

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 July, 2012, 12:00am


When Kathy Siu Ka-yi campaigned to join the Central and Western district council last year, she promised a second Mid-Levels escalator would be built to take pedestrians from the foot of the hill in Sheung Wan to Bonham Street along Pound Lane.

Now that Siu has been elected, consultations on the Pound Lane escalator will start this month - despite its high cost and complaints from residents.

The Transport Department first proposed in 2010 building escalators in 20 locations across the city.

The first of these will open this year on Centre Street in Sai Ying Pun.

But while the Centre Street escalator will cost HK$60 million, the Pound Lane escalator would cost an estimated HK$200 million.

Six Sheung Wan residents have organised the Pound Lane Concern Group to voice criticisms the escalator would waste taxpayers' money.

They say it would also ruin the character of the peaceful neighbourhood and turn it into another SoHo.

'Siu just wanted to be elected,' group member John Batten said. 'It's a stupid idea.

'A narrow lane used by around 500 people per day does not need to be dug up and replaced with a HK$200 million escalator.'

Surveys carried out by the Democratic Party and Siu's party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, have produced opposite results.

The DAB's survey found nearly 90 per cent of residents were in favour of the escalator in 2010.

But the Democratic Party found more 70 per cent of residents opposed the project last year.

Supporters of the escalator said it would serve the neighborhood's ageing population. 'Of course I would use the escalator if they're going to spend that much money on it,' said Mrs Chan, 80, as she carried two heavy parcels up a steep staircase.

And pottery studio owner Emma Chan Suet-ha said: 'As long as they don't cut down too many trees or demolish Blake Garden [a park near the route], I support the project.

'I think it could help bring more shoppers to the neighbourhood.'

The concern group is calling for a suspension of a HK$2 million consultation on the escalator plan.

Organiser Yeung Tsz-kit said: 'Before investing taxpayers' money, the government should consider lower-cost and more environmentally friendly alternatives such as a lift or a footbridge.

Siu said: 'I will pass on the complaints of the Pound Lane Concern Group to the district council. But we will not stop the consultation process.'