28 October 2016
Trams add to the charm of Hong Kong as they offer a unique glimpse into every-day street life and also mirror the city's past. Photo: HKEJ
Trams add to the charm of Hong Kong as they offer a unique glimpse into every-day street life and also mirror the city's past. Photo: HKEJ

Why we need to save our trams

Riding a tram during autumn evenings along with a loved one has been one of my favorite pastimes when I was young.

We would get on the tram from Causeway Bay and feel the breeze, then get off in Central and take a walk to the Star Ferry Pier. Taking a ferry to Tim Sha Tsui, we enjoyed the amazing night view from Victoria Harbor. What a wonderful and memorable experience!

When I was in a gloomy mood, I would hop on a tram and sit on the upper deck and travel to the very end of the line at the terminal. As I became older, subway has become the first choice for its high efficiency.

But I would still prefer tram over subway if I’m not in a hurry, to enjoy a leisurely ride.

Tram is a key part of our life, reminding us of so many great memories. However, a consultancy firm has recently urged the Town Planning Board to remove trams from the streets of Central to ease the traffic congestion in the district.

The proposal, initiated by a retired government planner, is quite disappointing. It’s only a one-page written proposal, and offers no information such as methodology, potential impact assessment and investigation.

Also, it says that tram tracks and stops have occupied 30 percent of the road of Des Voeux Road in Central, without explaining how the figure was arrived at. Moreover, there is also no data to support the suggestion that banning trams from the area will improve traffic in the district.

A proposal with no data and research aims to move tramways into the museum. Was the consultant too lazy to do the homework?

A professional planner should know very well that any argument has to be backed up by concrete data.

In media interviews, the former government planner has made a strong pitch for removing tramways, with comments such as “we should not cling to bygones”, “there is no good in keeping the tramway except for reason of nostalgia”, and that “it’s faster to walk than riding a tram”.

Following a public outcry, the government has rushed to dismiss the suggestion and affirmed that tramways will be preserved as a public transport mode.

Some observers believe the government had tested the water, and that it was forced to backtrack in the face of public opposition.

Tram service has no edge over the MTR in terms of speed and passenger capacity, but it offers a convenient and cheap choice, and fits perfectly with the “Slow Living” lifestyle.

Slow Living addresses the desire to lead a more balanced life amid all the frenzy of a modern metropolis.

Many people residing in Hong Kong suffer from insomnia, stomach ache, constipation and other problems due to stressful lives.

In terms of environmental protection, tram is a good alternative to private vehicles, as it’s a mass transport vehicle and does not emit any carbon dioxide. Also, it makes little noise.

The sound of tram and its alarm is far less annoying than other things.

Also, tram is a moving advertising board, and many companies and organizations love selling ads on tram cars, which move through business districts every day.

Hong Kong does not have many tourist attractions that are of historic and cultural significance. If trams are removed, the city will lose one of its few heritage icons. And it will definitely be a loss for local tourism.

If you are interested in preserving our trams, do write in to the Planning Department, which has invited public comments, before September 4.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 28 under the pen name Bittermelon.  

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version中文版]

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