Save the “ding dings”! Is this the end for Hong Kong’s iconic trams?

Save the “ding dings”! Is this the end for Hong Kong’s iconic trams?

The government will meet today to decide whether or not to make part of Central tram-free, but most Hongkongers want them kept

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Hong Kong's trams look cool, and they're also cheap transport.
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP

The Town Planning Board will decide in a meeting today whether or not to reject a retired government town planner’s application to make a section of the city’s Central district tram-free. They will take into account a government department’s stated opposition to his proposal.

The Planning Department submitted a statement to the board in which it clearly outlined it did not support the application of Sit Kwok-keung, a former government town planner.

In July, Sit proposed the removal of trams from Des Voeux Road Central to Admiralty to improve road traffic, claiming its stops occupied 30 per cent of the road surface of the busy street.

In the paper, transport minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said trams performed a complementary role in the city as they provided frequent and affordable services without roadside emissions for around 180,000 passengers daily.

Transport minister Cheung said the government had no plans to change its existing policy on trams.

The department said the applicant did not submit a development proposal or impact assessment to substantiate his proposal. It added that, in the absence of supporting information, it was impossible to say whether a redevelopment could bring more efficient use of Des Voeux Road Central and Queensway.

Transport commissioner Ingrid Yeung Ho Poi-yan said a discontinuation of tram services would not provide additional road space for other traffic uses.

In July, Sit proposed the removal of trams from Des Voeux Road Central to Admiralty to improve road traffic, claiming its stops occupied 30 per cent of the road surface of the busy street.

Sit’s application would set an undesirable precedent for similar zoning applications, the department added.

Of the 22,385 public comments received regarding the proposal, 22,070 expressed opposition to it.

Many Hongkongers see the trams as iconic. We asked our readers if they think trams should be preserved, and they feel very strongly about the subject.

Liam Fung, 13, Chinese International School

I think that trams are an incredibly important and cheap way for commuters to travel, so getting rid of trams is not very smart, especially when they are representative of Hong Kong’s culture and history. I took a tram last week, and it was packed to the brim with people going everywhere, so I believe teams are incredibly important. I would definitely miss trams if they were taken away since they give me such a nostalgic feeling and are one of Hong Kong’s most famous forms of transport.

Christy Cheung, 16, St Paul’s Co-educational College

Trams are part of Hong Kong’s intangible heritage and getting rid of that heritage, however small that part is, means damaging our culture. Even though trams are considered slow, many people rely on them for travelling short distances. I think they are really important as a form of public transport as they give Hongkongers a cheap alternative to the MTR or buses. I love the feeling of sitting on a tram. When I am on a tram, everything feels much slower and you can admire the street view from inside. It is a kind of “getaway” from my hectic life.

Tiffany Tsang, 17, TWGHs Mrs with York Yu Memorial College

Trams are cheap, and many commuters who work in Central need to use them to get around. Secondly, they are such an iconic part of Hong Kong’s culture and we need to preserve this. Trams are one of my favourite ways to get around as I can take in the sights of the streets around me. It’s also pretty unique in that it’s completely different to buses or the MTR.

Yasmin Subba, 19, HKUST

Drastic changes begin with incremental, seemingly inconsequential steps. In this case, removing some of the tram sections may not seem like a big deal as the trams would still exist on other parts of the island. But, this could be the start of how, bit by bit, the tram becomes usable to less people due to its shortened journey span, eventually ending up as a mere historical curio rather than a viable method of transport. And that is when the tram can easily be completely removed.

It is so vital to avoid taking any steps toward this end, because the trams are not only a quick mode of transport during rush hour but also because they are one of the icons that make Hong Kong unique as a city. Cultural heritage is prized around the world because they are living pieces of history, and the tram, having been around for more than a century, is definitely a piece of Hong Kong’s past.

I would be heartbroken if the trams were gone because they add a wonderful blend of old to Hong Kong’s modernity and show the richness of Hong Kong’s culture and history.

Tinaz Mirza, 17, South Island School

I do not think Hong Kong should be made tram free as they are an important part of the city’s aesthetic and culture. They are a good transport option for short distances due to their cheap fares and frequent service and would therefore be missed if they were gone.

Belinda Ng, 15, South Island School

I don’t think Hong Kong should make some sections of the island tram-free, simply because it is an affordable and easy method of transportation for many people in Hong Kong. With other forms of transportation becoming so crowded now, especially the MTR during rush hours, it is very important that this option is available for citizens. I would definitely miss the trams a lot, because even though I don’t ride it every day, they have become one of Hong Kong’s historical and cultural icons. There’s also something very special about riding on the tram: you get to glimpse a side of Hong Kong you rarely see when you are in an air-conditioned bus or car; the hustle and bustle of it all is one of a kind!

Abhay Venkitaraman, 12, King George V School

I think Hong Kong should make some sections of the island, such as Causeway Bay or Central, tram-free, but only temporarily. This is because the Hong Kong government will be able to tell whether the trams are the primary cause of road congestion in Hong Kong in the short term. If so, the Hong Kong government should stop tram services on parts of Hong Kong Island. Trams are a cheap and eco-friendly mode of transport, which are affordable for many people. They also have a large reach, passing through almost every urban area on Hong Kong Island, and it only takes an average of 15-30 minutes to get to your destination.

As a history enthusiast, I think trams are a very important part of Hong Kong’s heritage, and we would be erasing an important chapter of Hong Kong history if we stop tram services on Hong Kong Island. I also like the fact that trams are an extremely unique mode of transport; they’re so different from buses and they aren’t found in every city so it’s a real treat to ride them in Hong Kong

Wai Shan-yam, 16, St Paul’s Co-educational College

I do not think that Hong Kong should make some sections of the island tram-free. Some say that without trams, the traffic wouldn’t be as bad. But I think the tram still has a place in society. It’s great for making low-cost, short-distance journeys, and for those who like to appreciate the vitality of Central: the unique smell of dried sea food when you pass by Des Voeux Road West in Sheung Wan; the hustle and bustle of the people rushing back and forth. You can’t get those experiences from the bus or the MTR.

It would be a great loss if some sections of Hong Kong end up tram-free.

On top of this, my school is in Mid-Levels. Every day, when I walk down to Central, the distinctive "ding ding" sound is like a reminder of a slow and casual life amongst the disturbing honking. At times, I will follow the path of the tram to my destination since the path of the tram is actually always used to give directions. Without the tram, I would probably get lost easily. I would definitely miss the trams if they were gone.

Lesley Cheung, 21, HKU

I think tram services should remain on the island as they embody the history of earlier Hong Kong and they are still being used by local people. It's the most economical way to travel on the island, and offers a majestic streetscape for the leisurely traveller. Further, I think tram services should be introduced in other parts of Hong Kong, like the highly congested Kowloon, to slow down the hectic pace of the urban area. Nathan Road, I believe, would be an exciting visual stage for the tram commuter in Kowloon. I would certainly miss trams a lot if they were gone.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Is this the end for HK's iconic trams?

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3 Comments

Dipti Tewani

12:24pm

Trams should not be removed from some parts of the Island, as it is an low-cost, and efficient way for many locals to travel short- distance journeys. The trams are an important part of the Hong Kong heritage, and by removing them would literally mean taking a piece of living history and throwing them away. I understand that by trams would still be in use in other parts of Island, however, slowly as time passes, trams might just be seen as an historical piece rather than a efficient mode of transport.

Trams are such an important and unique mode of transport, as you can see the more than just the fast-paced life that Hong Kong citizens live through; the smell of salty dried fish as you pass through Sheung Wan, street vendors trying to sell padlocks, screws, and phone covers in Kennedy Town. You can't experience this side of Hong Kong with the MTR, or buses. Trams are the perfect combination to the 'urban jungle' , and give tourists a glimpse of Hong Kong that they probably never expected.

Dipti Tewani

12:24pm

Trams should not be removed from some parts of the Island, as it is an low-cost, and efficient way for many locals to travel short- distance journeys. The trams are an important part of the Hong Kong heritage, and by removing them would literally mean taking a piece of living history and throwing them away. I understand that by trams would still be in use in other parts of Island, however, slowly as time passes, trams might just be seen as an historical piece rather than a efficient mode of transport.

Trams are such an important and unique mode of transport, as you can see the more than just the fast-paced life that Hong Kong citizens live through; the smell of salty dried fish as you pass through Sheung Wan, street vendors trying to sell padlocks, screws, and phone covers in Kennedy Town. You can't experience this side of Hong Kong with the MTR, or buses. Trams are the perfect combination to the 'urban jungle' , and give tourists a glimpse of Hong Kong that they probably never expected.

Elva Wong

15:41pm

A controversial idea to get rid of trams from Hong Kong’s Central business district to ease traffic congestion already looks doomed after the planning authorities were swamped with 15,000 submissions-mostly against the plan.

I think getting rid of trams from Hong Kong’s Central business isn’t a good idea to ease traffic congestion. The trams have been serving people for more than 110 years, so it should be an important history and culture of Hong Kong. We should continue this culture. Furthermore, we ought to put it in the museums and people can know more about its history.

Besides, there are many methods to ease traffic congestion in Central business district such as controlling the numbers of private car and encouraging people to use public transport. There are many ways to solve problem and I believe it is not necessary to get rid of trams.

Some people said using tram downtown was wasting our valuable land resources in the heart of Hong Kong. People always pursue efficiency nowadays, but in the trams, they can be relaxed in this district. Finally, I hope the trams will continue to run in Central.