Hong Kong Tramways suspends slow driver warning programme in wake of Thursday’s accident

If drivers recorded too many ‘below standard’ journeys, they would have to face authorities

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 April, 2017, 1:26pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 April, 2017, 10:37pm

Hong Kong Tramways has suspended a speed monitoring programme that discouraged drivers from travelling too slow just days after an accident that left 14 people injured.

An internal Hong Kong Tramways’ notice, obtained by Apple Daily, explained that tram journeys would be recorded as “below standard” if they were found to be slower than the average of 7.9 kilometres per hour. The company would discipline drivers if they repeatedly recorded slow journeys.

The notice said drivers with the highest number of “below standard” journeys, and who had worked for more than one year, would be given a verbal warning and have to face authorities.

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If the driver placed high on the ranking again within 12 months, he or she would receive a more serious warning.

The tramways company stressed the programme did not ask drivers to increase their speeds, and confirmed it would now be suspended.

It said the programme was launched in December last year following repeated reports of trams travelling at lower speeds.

“Hong Kong Tramways reiterates that it put safety of operations as an absolute priority and has never requested the motorman to drive fast,” the company said.

14 hurt as tram topples over outside HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong’s Central district

“The purpose is to bring all trams toward the general average speed of 7.9 kilometres per hour to prevent tram bunching and keep regular headways.

“There is certainly no intention for motormen to compete between each other, but for them to work as a team and the trams to progress in a carrousel with headways that are as regular as possible and at speeds that are well within safety standards,” it said.

Hong Kong Tramways admitted it was inappropriate to emphasise the disciplinary actions, but said no action had ever been taken under the programme.

Two tram drivers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they had seen the notice.

One said he did not feel the urge to drive faster and very few actually did drive “ridiculously slowly”. Those that do drive slowly, he said, generally do so at night because drivers are paid hourly.

He said he expected the programme to be reinstated after the suspension.

News of Hong Kong Tramways’ programme comes after a tram fell onto its side in Central at about midnight on Thursday, injuring 14 people. Police sources later said a passenger had complained that the tram was travelling too fast before it crashed. The driver, 23, was arrested.

The Hong Kong Tramway Workers Union said it had long been “very concerned” about tram driving speeds, and that it had sent a letter requesting to meet company management to discuss Thursday’s accident.