Asia Minute: Hong Kong’s Historic Trams Face Challenge

Sep 4, 2015

Credit Klaus Nahr / Flickr

While rail is a project that remains in O‘ahu’s future - A different kind of train has a long history in Hong Kong.  And a recent proposal to phase out the city’s trams has sparked a strong reaction.  HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Parts of Hong Kong have managed to hold onto some history.  The Star Ferry still offers stunning views on the short trip across Hong Kong harbor - a journey it’s been making for more than a hundred years.  And there are the electric trams on the north side of Hong Kong Island, including the city’s financial center.  They’ve been clattering along their tracks since 1904.  City officials say they still carry about 200-thousand people a day.

A consultant who’s a retired government planner recently proposed that trams be eliminated from Hong Kong.  He says they’re inefficient as a means of transportation, and their removal would make more room on the streets.

This has not turned out to be a popular idea.

Outrage has struck from social media to indignant editorials - there’s a petition with thousands of signatures put together in part by the genteel-sounding Hong Kong Trams Enthusiast Group.

The reaction is a bit pre-emptive - the proposal to eliminate trams won’t even be heard by the Town Planning Board until next month.  By the way, the Managing Director of Hong Kong Tramways says don’t blame the trams for traffic congestion pointing out that the number of cars in the city has grown by 50% in the past ten years.