Tram crash

Tram crash

Voices: Lai ying-kit and Anita Lam

Kit: Hello this is listening plus and you are with Young Post reporter Lai Ying-kit. Today we will be discussing a rare accident involving two trams in Causeway Bay. Joining me to discuss is Anita Lam. She reports transports and infrastructure news for South China Morning Post. So, first of all Anita, can you tell us more about the accident?

Anita: Yep. As you know, on Thursday, two trams collided in the junction of Percival Street and Hennessey Road. A Happy Valley-bound tram was supposed to turn right into Percival Street when it collided with another tram that was going in the direction of Central. It was around 2.30pm, and then the head of the Central-bound tram was pretty seriously damaged, with its front end all bended and the doors almost knocked out. 41 people were knocked down to the ground and some hit their head. Some suffered abrasions and bruises. Some were shocked and even cried.

Kit: Why was a rare accident?

Anita: Yes, you know. Trams do not run exactly at a high speed. And because there is a central computer controlling the track movements for the trams and basically all the drivers do is just to start the engine and the trams go ahead. And in this case, there have been no mechanical faults. The track was actually pointing to the right direction. After all you don’t see trams colliding every day in the city.

Kit: How serious was this accident? Were there many people injured?

Anita: Yeah, 41 people injured. But the lucky thing is that none of them suffered any major injuries. Yes I just said most of them just suffered bruises and abrasions. In the one that had the most serious injury, she bumped her head against a railing or something and she was bleeding all over. There was another one who was obviously in such a shock that she complained of her chest pain. Luckily, all of them were discharged after treatment.

Kit: There is one question around this accident. If, as you say, all the tracks are pre-set in their directions, how did two trams collide? And how did this accident happen?

Anita: The accident is still under investigation by police and Hong Kong Tramways. But according to exclusive sources, it is basically caused by human negligence. I heard that one driver, the one who was supposed to be going to Happy Valley, he mistook that the tram should actually be going ahead. So he stepped on his engine while the other tram was doing exactly the same thing, which made the two trams collide. Basically, the track movements of the tram was controlled by a central computer and all the driver had to do was just to start and brake the tram. In that junction, I was told that the sensor system of the tram and also the traffic lights were functioning properly. But the driver was probably thinking about something else. To my knowledge, the track for the Happy Valley-bound tram was actually set to turn right. But I understand that the driver, at that point, was not aware that his tram was going to turn right and that he should wait for the other tram to go ahead first before he made the right turn. So he stepped on the engine while the other tram was trying to go ahead and the two trams collided.

Kit: Why would this driver make such a mistake? What was the condition of this driver?

Anita: As you know people make mistakes. This driver is supposed to be very an experienced one. He has joined Hong Kong Tramways for 14 years and I heard he suffered no emotional problems at the time of the accident. He is now suspended from duties pending for the final report of the investigation.

Kit: So is the accident scene a black spot for tram accidents?

Anita: As a matter of fact, it is. I remember that four years ago there was a similar accident happened to that junction and in that accident 17 people were injured and there were also two trams colliding. And maybe like just 100 metres ahead, outside the Sogo Department Store, a tram derailed and hit a mini bus which in turn crashed into a truck sometime back in 2004. So there were quite a lot of accidents happened in busy districts. As you see over the years, the reserved tram lanes have been slowly declining. A reserved lane is a section of the tracks which all other vehicles are not allowed to ride on. But of course, you know, all over Hong Kong roads are busy. Sometimes you can see private cars or cargo vans are actually running on the tramways while they avoid other congested lanes. Of course that will cause a lot of trouble. Apart from just slowing down the trams, there might also the danger of collision. And sometimes at busy junctions there were trucks and cargo vans that would pile up on one side of the street loading and unloading goods, leaving little room for other vehicles, so they had to invade tramways track. The tramways is looking for solution.

Kit: There have been quite a number of bus drivers who have complained about their long working hours. They said that they have been working too long so they might be too tired. They suggested that this might be one of the possible reasons for recent accidents. So is this one of the factors causing the accident?

Anita: Well, no. According to Hong Kong Tramways, tram drivers probably have the shortest working hours among public transport drivers. Public bus drivers can work up to 11 hours on the road. But for tramway drivers, the maximum working drivers is eight. After minusing the hours they spend resting and on lunch, their actual time spent on driving a tram could be just around five to six hours. Of course, an accident is an accident. So every year Tramways would give a refresher course to drivers to remind them of the dos and don’ts on driving the tram.

Kit: Ok, thank you, Anita. Thank for you being with us.

Anita: Thank you.

Kit: Goodbye.

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