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Love them or not, Hong Kong trams must stay despite ‘ridiculous’ scrapping proposal: Post readers

Love them or not, Hong Kong trams must stay despite ‘ridiculous’ scrapping proposal: Post readers

Jeremy Blum

tram
Hong Kong students ride a tram bearing their art designs during a cultural event. Photo: Jonathan Wong

A Town Planning Board proposal to remove Hong Kong’s 110-year-old trams from the streets of Central district is drawing criticism from an overwhelming majority of South China Morning Post readers.

In more than 200 responses collected by the Post yesterday, vocal Hongkongers called the controversial plan everything from a mistake to a “ridiculous idea” that threatened to destroy the city’s heritage.

“[The tram] is one of the best ways to explore the city at a leisurely pace,” wrote Pranab Sarkar. “They are still an important mode of transport, especially for the poor folks.”

Sammi Chen wrote that though the tram has its downsides (“when it’s so full, you can’t get out at your stop – [that I] dislike”), they are an inexpensive and sometimes quick way to get around.

“Every time I come back to Hong Kong I have to have a tram ride,” agreed Shona Parker. “It’s the best way to get that true Hong Kong experience and it’s one of the few things left untouched from the past.”

Hong Kong Tramways has a fleet of 161 trams, of which 36 are of a new model introduced in 2010. More modern, seventh-generation trams were introduced in 2011. Unique to Hong Kong Island, the tram line stretches from Kennedy Town to Shau Kei Wan and charges a flat fare of HK$2.30.

WATCH: A journey through history: the ups and downs of Hong Kong’s beloved 110-year-old tram

The past months have been a bumpy ride for the company, with pro-democracy protests interrupting tram services in Causeway Bay – a key protest zone – for a few weeks. Tramways’ managing director, Frenchman Emmanuel Vivant, said at the time that it had lost 3.9 million passengers and HK$7.8 million in revenue during the Occupy Central movement.

Early this year, the number of passengers using trams dropped by 10 per cent to an average 180,000 a day since the opening of the MTR’s West Island line. But the beloved trams have chugged on.

tram2
Post readers vote to keep the trams.
The proposal to scrap the trams, originally suggested by retired town planner Sit Kwok-keung, is aimed at reducing congestion, with Sit claiming that “old and flawed” trams occupy about 30 per cent of Central’s road space and have become outdated now that that the MTR’s West Island Line is functional.

Post readers vehemently disagreed with this logic, with many arguing that removing trams would only increase traffic problems rather than alleviate them.

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INFOGRAPHIC: History of the tram on its 110-year anniversary

“The world’s cities are moving towards using more mass transit systems running on electricity to reduce the number of cars and tailpipe emissions on the road,” said Avis Lau. “What kind of consultancy advises to remove mass transit vehicles to accommodate more cars?”

“[The government] should focus on illegal street parking [instead],” wrote Timothy Smith. “Maybe restrict truck deliveries that block lanes during rush hour as well.”

Chrissie Govier also pointed a finger at illegal parking, arguing that “selfish car drivers” take up far more road space than trams, which, in contrast, are “efficient and don’t pollute”.

Finally, the nostalgic value of Hong Kong’s oldest form of public transport was seen by many as an irreplaceable element of the city’s history.

“Please don’t make the mistake of getting rid of the [trams],” said Hugh Cameron. “Ask the guys in Sydney who are spending millions of dollars trying to re-introduce them in the city.”

“Next it will be get rid of Star Ferry, bulldoze The Peak and completely reclaim Victoria Harbour,” wrote Chris Hodgeman. “Enough is enough!”

With additional reporting by Staff Reporters

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 August, 2015, 10:50am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 August, 2015, 11:20am

#HongKongTramsHistory
#DingDingHongKong

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