Train no substitute for HK's iconic trams

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 September, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 September, 2015, 12:01am

I felt very upset when I heard there was a proposal to cut the Hong Kong Tramway's route in Central, because it was thought the opening of the MTR's West Island Line can replace trams, free up their lanes and thereby decrease traffic congestion in the area.

First, if the MTR is a substitute for trams, the "ding-dings" should have stopped operating after 1985 when the Island Line opened. In the last 30 years, trams have been one of the most popular means of transport.

They provide an almost door-to-door service due to frequent stops and are particularly welcomed by passengers travelling short distances, not only because they offer the cheapest fare of all the transport options but also time is saved by not having to walk up and down to the MTR platform.

Many white-collar workers in Central, including me, much prefer taking trams to meet friends in Sheung Wan, Admiralty and Wan Chai during lunch or after work.

Trams are always crowded with passengers in those hours.

Second, the root cause of the heavy road traffic in Central is actually illegal parking and increasing numbers of private vehicles in the district. For example, there are no tram lanes in Queen's Road Central, Wyndham Street, Ice House Street and Lyndhurst Terrace but there is always heavy road congestion because many private vehicles illegally park at the roadside for hours.

Third, trams are a tourism icon in Hong Kong and have a strong heritage value. The Hong Kong Tourism Board promotes a relaxing ride on Hong Kong Island during which visitors can have a good look at the city.

Removing tram means killing one of Hong Kong's attractions. Remember that once the heritage has been removed, it cannot be restored.

I really hope that the government can deal with the root cause of busy traffic and take action to control the use of private vehicles and impose heavy penalties for illegal parking in the district. This is what other major cities are doing (for example, Singapore or New York), to encourage citizens to use public transport.

The government should not do the reverse, that is, to eliminate the public transport (trams) and encourage more use of private cars.

Anne Cheung, Central