With rush-hour traffic between Central and Mid-Levels worsening by the day, a government study on “linking the two districts by a series of escalators, or even a cable car, or mono-rail” brought first mention of the Central-Mid-Levels escalator in the South China Morning Post on February 28, 1982.
Twenty-one escalators at a cost of HK$26.5 million “from Cochrane Street to Conduit Road … to be completed in 1988” was the first proposal described in the Post on March 30, 1984, as one of seven Mid-Levels escalator routes between Sheung Wan and Admiralty.
The proposed 600 metres of escalators would beat out Ocean Park’s 225-metre walkway for the “title of being the longest in the world”, the Post noted on June 22, 1986 (Guinness World Records lists the now 800 metres of escalators as the longest covered outdoor escalator system).
Problems abounded as development began, with the Post reporting, “Moving walkways project proceeding at a slower pace,” on July 22, 1986. Uncertainty over redevelopment of the Central Market building, through which the escalator would connect to the Central Elevated Walkway, delayed construction by another year before engineers finally decided to “build the walkway through the second floor of the market and take their chances on future redevelopment,” the Post reported on January 16, 1989. A good choice, considering Central Market is only now getting around to renovations, having closed in 2003.
Not until October 11, 1993, did the Post report, “The much-maligned Mid-Levels escalator is expected to open today, nine months behind schedule and costing more than six times its original estimate,” at a total cost of HK$240 million.
More than two decades later, the escalator is due for renovations next year and we could see more escalators in the future, such as the proposed link from Sheung Wan to Bonham Road.