Hong Kong Tramways (香港電車)is one of the three tramways in the world that have regular operation of double-decker trams (the others being Blackpool, England and Alexandria, Egypt), and is the only system that runs exclusively on double-deckers.
Operated by The Wharf, the tramway runs on Hong Kong Island in Hong Kong between Shau Kei Wan and Kennedy Town, with a branch circulating Happy Valley. 240,000 residents commute by tram every day. Serving from 1904, it is one of the earliest forms of public transport in Hong Kong. Trams in Hong Kong have not only been a form of transport for over 100 years, but also a major tourist attraction.
The electric tram system was proposed in 1881; however nobody was willing to invest in a system at the time. In August 1901, the Second Tramway Bill was introduced and passed into law as the 1902 Tramway Ordinance. Hong Kong Tramway Electric Company Limited, a British company, was authorised to construct and operate the system. It was soon taken over by the Electric Traction Company of Hong Kong Limited on 30 July 1904, and the name was changed to Hong Kong Tramways Company Limited in 1910.
In 1922, a new company, Hong Kong Tramway Limited (HKT), was founded to take over and operate the system. The Tramway Ordinance of 1902 had awarded a 25-year operating mandate, which was then extended to a 50-year contract and expired on 23 May 1952. Due to the extension of the mandate, the Hong Kong Government had the chance to purchase the tramway at 5-year intervals, provided always that 6 months' notice of such intention was given. In 1974, Hong Kong Tramways became part of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company Limited and is now operated under subsidiary Wharf Transport Investments Ltd.
The Hong Kong Tramways system was built from May 1903 (see timeline below). After equipment testing, the electric tram began operation on July 30 1904. At that time the main route went along the northern waterfront of Hong Kong Island from Arsenal Street in Wan Chai to Shau Kei Wan, with a branch serving Happy Valley. Shortly after, the line was extended westards to Kennedy Town. The length of the route was 15 km (9.3 miles), the same as today, except for track relocations and the extension of the Happy Valley branch in 1914. Originally constructed with both single and double-track sections, the last single-track section was eliminated in August 1949. Reserved track along Queensway (then part of Queen's Road East) was introduced from 1955.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s there were fears about the survival of the trams when the Mass Transit Railway began to construct the Island Line, which was proposed to run along a route that is similar to the trams'. A survey was taken by the company in 1984, and the results concluded that the public would prefer to keep the tram system intact.
The system is 13 km (8 miles) long, with a total track length of 30 km (18.6 miles), and it runs together with other vehicles on the street. Its operation relies on the 550 V direct current (d.c.) from the overhead cables, on 3'6" gauge (1067 mm) tracks. The trams provide service to only part of Hong Kong Island: they run on a double track along the northern coast of Hong Kong Island from Kennedy Town to Shaukeiwan, with a single clockwise-running track of about 3 km (1.9 miles) around the Happy Valley Racecourse. There are six major overlapping routes:
|From||Bound||Weekdays||Saturdays|| Sundays and|
|Shau Kei Wan||westbound||05:58-23:55||05:58-23:36||05:56-23:36|
|average frequency during peak hours: 90 seconds|
|Duration of journey (in minutes)|
|Western Market||Causeway Bay||Happy Valley||North Point||Shaukeiwan|
Most of the tram stop locations have remained unchanged since their establishment. However, some have had their names changed, e.g. "Shu Shen Guan" (Chinese 書信館, General Post Office) in the 1940s is now "World-Wide House", due to redevelopment of the former Post Office site. In 1934, Hongkong Tramways introduced loading islands (waiting areas) at some busy tram stops to ensure the safety of passengers. Today, there are 123 tram stops in total. Most of them are sheltered, with a handful of tram stop signs still standing on the sidewalks.
Just like buses, trams in Hong Kong can be very crowded. The maximum capacity of each tramcar is 115 people. During the busier periods of the day, trams often line up since there are many tramcars running at the same time. In 2002, the trams recorded an average of 240,000 passenger trips daily.
There are seven terminal points, at Kennedy Town, Whitty Street, Western Market, Causeway Bay, North Point, Shaukeiwan and Happy Valley. Tram stops are densely located in an average interval of 250 metres (820 feet). Most of them are located in the middle of the road, connected by pedestrian crossings or footbridges. Major ones include Yee Wo Street stop at Causeway Bay, Pacific Place stop at Admiralty, and Prince's Building / The Landmark stop at Central. Travelling in the lower deck of the tram allows travellers to have a close up view of the local street life, while occupying the front seats of the upper deck gives good views of the town as the tram rattles by.
The tram service starts at 05:10 and ends at around 01:00 every day. On average, the interval between each tram is approximately 1.5 minutes in peak hours.
As the trams move slowly, with a maximum speed of about 40 km/h (25 mph), they are comparatively safe. Only a few major accidents have occurred. In fact, according to the Hong Kong Census and Statistics department, fewer than 10 traffic accidents involving trams occurred per year on average as of 2002.
Hongkong Tramways Ltd now owns 163 double-decker trams, including two open-balcony trams (28, 128) for tourists and private hire and one special maintenance tram (200). The tram itself is commonly called the “DingDing” by Hong Kong people, after the double bell ring trams use to warn pedestrians of their approach. It is the only fully double-decker tram fleet in the world. Most of the trams in operation were rebodied in the late 1980s or early 1990s. They are equipped with sliding windows. Since the early 2000s these trams have been upgraded to provide better operating performance and safety.
Tram 120 is the only tram still maintaining its original 1950s' double-deck design. The cabin is varnished with its original light-green color, teak-lined windows and rattan seats.
In 2000, 3 new aluminium alloy metal bodied trams (officially called "Millennium trams"), #168 - 170, started operation. These trams have proven somewhat unpopular due to poor ventilation in the summer. A prototype air-conditioned tram, 171, is now in testing.
The tram fleet first consisted of 26 single-deck trams, with bodies 29 ft (8.8 m) long and 6 ft 1 in (1.9 m) wide, imported from England. However, they were quickly removed because of the rapid modernisation programmes. These tramcars were replaced by open-top double-deck tramcars from 1912 onwards. The introduction of permanent roofs for trams in 1923 was a big improvement to the system. In 1960s, adding trailers was proposed due to the increasing population and demands. In December 1964, after testing a prototype built by Taikoo Dockyard in Hong Kong, 10 trailers were ordered from England and were added to the trams in Hong Kong in early 1965. Ten additional trailers were ordered from England in 1967, bringing the total number of trailers to 22. The trailers served as the first class of the trams. Trailers were withdrawn at the end of 1982 since they produced too much noise when moving.
- Fleet Details
|Make/Model||Description||Fleet size||Year acquired||Year retired||Notes|
|Dick, Kerr & Company of Preston, England (#1-16) and Electric Railway & Tramway Works Limited of Preston (a Dick Kerr subsidiary) (#17-26) First Generation cars||single deck cars - wood||26||1904-1912||1912|
|United Electric Car Company Second Generation cars||double decker cars - wood||N/A||1912-1918||1930s|
|English Electric Company Third Generation cars||double decker cars - wood||N/A||1918||1930s|
|Hongkong Tramways Fourth Generation cars||double decker car - aluminum alloy||159 - 120 are c. 1950s and rest from the 1930s (#1–27, 29–43, 45–119, 121–127, 129–143, 145–163, 165–166)||1930s-1964||rebuilt 1986|
|Hongkong Tramways Millennium /Fifth Generation cars||double decker car - aluminum alloy||4 (only 3 in service) - #168-171||2000||#171 air-condition unit being tested|
|Hongkong Tramways trailer cars||36 passenger single deckcars - aluminum alloy||22||1965||1982||non-powered trailers|
|Hongkong Tramways work car||single deck car - aluminum alloy||1||Fourth Generation car||Work card # 20 based on double deck car|
|Hongkong Tramways private hire cars||antique double deck cars - aluminum alloy||2 - # 28 and 128||1986, 1987||Private hire only|
- Cantor Overhead cable maintenance vehicle
- North Point Depot
With the upsurge in the number of trams the original depot had become too crowded by 1932, prompting Hongkong Tramways to secure the North Point Depot site at King's Road for tram parking purposes (storage for 30 cars).
In 1951, the North Point Depot was closed and the operations moved to new facility in Russell Street, Wanchai bordering Causeway Bay.
- Sharp Street Depot
A single comprehensive depot at Russell Street to house the whole tram fleet (approximately 120 cars) was started to alleviate overcrowding at North Point. Upon its completion, the depot was renamed Sharp Street Depot. Sharp Street Depot was closed in 1989 and its services were divided between two new depots, the present Sai Wan Ho depot (East Depot) and the Whitty Street depot (West Depot).
The Executive Council approved Tramways' plan to relocate its depots to Sai Wan Ho and Sai Ying Pun in July 1986, on the argument that the HK$3.5 million in operating costs would be saved. The company promised that tram fares would be frozen until the end of 1988. The old Sharp Street tram depot was decommissioned in 1988, and the Times Square commercial complex was constructed on its site.
- Arsenal Street Depot
Arsenal Street Depot was the earlier of the HKT's storage facilities and replaced by Whitty and Sharp Street Depots.
- Whitty Street Terminus and Depot
Whitty Street , also known as West Depot, is the location of the main depot for HK Trams current operations. It was previously operated as a terminus. When the Sharp Street Depot was closed, the site was expanded by the addition of 1.28 hectares on the Western reclamation in Sai Ying Pun leased from the Government, and henceforth became the main depot.
There is a two storey work shop, which was responsible for re-builds in the 1980s. Car # 168, the newest in the fleet was built here.
- Sai Wan Ho Depot
Sai Wan Ho became East Depot after the closure of the Sharp Street Depot in 1989. This depot occupies a site or 0.7 hectares leased from the Government on a 5-year renewable tenancy. It lies beneath the Island Eastern Corridor near to Shau Kei Wan Road and Hoi Foo Street and is home to 56 cars.
Fares on the trams are low by local standards. The fare is HK$2 for adults, and HK$1 for children under 12 and senior citizens 65 and above. Unlike other forms of public transport in Hong Kong, there is a uniform tariff regardless of the distance travelled. Payment using the exact fare in coins or Octopus card is made upon alighting from a tram. Monthly tickets are also available at the cost of HK$170, sold at Whitty Street tram depot and Causeway Bay and North Point termini at the end of each month.
Ordinary and antique trams are also available for private hire. The open-balcony antique trams are available for parties or promotional events. Tourists can also travel the open-top trams through tours organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Timeline of Tramways historyEdit
- 1881: Idea of tramway system was proposed in Hong Kong
- 1901: Proposal accepted by Hong Kong Government
- 1902: Hong Kong Tramway Electric Company Ltd founded, and the name changed by the end of this year to Electric Tranction Company of Hong Kong Ltd
- 1903: Tramways engineering development started
- 1904: Track connecting Wan Chai, Happy Valley and Shau Kei Wan were completed
- 1910: Name of the company changed to The Hongkong Tramways Ltd
- 1912: Double-decker trams were introduced
- 1922: Electricity was contracted and supplied by Hongkong Electric Co. Ltd (HEC)
- 1932: North Point Depot came into service
- 1949: Double track adopted, and radical renewal started
- 1954: North Point Depot closed and Russell Street Depot expanded and renamed Sharp Street Depot
- 1964: Three locally-made trams added
- 1967: New-type trams designed
- 1974: The Hongkong Tramways Ltd acquired by The Wharf (Holdings) Limited
- 1979: Last tram was manufactured
- 1982: All trams were mustered out
- 1986: Another renewal
- 1989: Sharp Street Depot closed and split into Sai Wan Ho and the Whitty Street depots
- 2000: New generation trams (Millennium trams) introduced
- 2001: The electronic smart card payment system Octopus introduced on trams
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Plan to relocate depot keeps tram-fares down, South China Morning Post, July 16, 1986
- ↑ Tram Hire. Hongkong Tramways Limited. Retrieved on July 4, 2006.
- Hong Kong Tramways
- History of Trams - HK Tramways
- Report #4 "British Double Deck Trams in China" Hongkong Tramways