Proposed escalator in historic Hong Kong district won't ease access

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2015, 5:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2015, 5:03pm

A very expensive project of little use is being pushed by the Highways Department and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. The proposed Pound Lane escalator is meeting strong resistance from residents and business owners in the historic area of Tai Ping Shan.

The escalator is said to be about 240 metres long. It won't be, not after consultations had cut the lower half, so there would be stairs to climb to even get on the escalator.

Furthermore, the proposed project means possible damage to Grade 2 historic buildings and potentially an influx of bars and restaurants into an area with schools and elderly homes.

Proponents claim that a major reason for a Pound Lane escalator is to serve the needs of the elderly, particularly visitors to Tung Wah Hospital on Po Yan Street. They fail to mention that the hospital would not be easily accessible with the proposed solution. There would still be stairs from the escalator to Po Yan Street.

This would probably be a surprise to the elderly people invited to the public consultations by the DAB as a show of "support".

The DAB, which has been pursuing this project for years, was presented with a better alternative by the Pound Lane Concern Group, but it ignored it.

Are the elderly, hospital visitors and schoolchildren at the heart of concerns? Or is it property owners wanting to develop the area into a new SoHo, with restaurants and bars right next to schools and homes for the elderly?

Why is the Highways Department pushing this inferior option to the tune of HK$200 million construction costs? Public consultations - the latest planned for April 30 - are announced with minimal promotion.

If the Highways Department and DAB want to provide access to Mid-Levels and Tung Wah Hospital, a much better alternative is one block away. An escalator on Po Yan Street would take visitors right to the doorstep of the hospital. It would provide help for the same 50-metre vertical climb, be shorter, and could be built at a much lower cost than the Pound Lane option, with less damage to the area.

Furthermore, a foot bridge over Hospital Road would provide access to both Bonham Road and Hospital Road. The upper point would be right next to some of the bigger estates, and provide access to hospitals and clinics on Hospital Road.

Has this option been considered by the Highways Department? Has it been considered by the DAB? And has it been presented to, and considered by, the Central and Western district council?

Johan Olausson, Sheung Wan