Tram passengers down 10pc after opening of MTR West Island line
The number of passengers using trams has dropped by 10 per cent to an average 180,000 a day since the opening of the MTR's West Island line two months ago.
Hong Kong Tramways revealed the figures in the face of direct competition from the new extension from Sheung Wan station to Kennedy Town, which overlaps its services on the tracks.
Managing director Emmanuel Vivant said increasing tram fares would be the "last resort" and instead the company would first optimise resources to reclaim passengers, reduce costs and generate new revenue sources.
However, Vivant stressed the "essential threat" the 110-year-old tram service faces is not from the MTR, but road congestion.
With the planned opening of the Central-Wan Chai bypass at the end of 2017, he said the government should give more priority to tram and bus services as the traffic pressure on roads would be relieved.
"We hope we can get some support … to make sure trams can run at a reasonable speed and the service can remain reliable," Vivant said.
"It means more tracks on the lanes and adjusting traffic signals to restore some of the speed that we have lost over the years."
Vivant also said the company was working with Chinese University on designing a new tram dispatch system to minimise passenger waiting times and enhance its competitiveness.
"We aim to address passenger demand in real time, so we don't have empty trams … to make sure all our available trams are where passengers are," he said.
Tram services were seriously disrupted during the 79-day pro-democracy Occupy protests last year, when major roads on Hong Kong Island were blocked. Around 4.8 million passengers were lost during that period.
However, tramways was the only transport sector omitted from support measures announced by the financial secretary in last week's budget speech.
Vivant said Hong Kong Tramways had been exchanging views with the government on possible measures.