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Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 11:09

HK must work harder to cut noise and pollution

By Peter Liang
HK must work harder to cut noise and pollution
Hong Kong’s iconic double-decker trams, nicknamed “ding dings” for the sound of their bells, remain popular with residents.  The track is being revamped to reduce the noise they create. ( SeongJoon Cho / Bloomberg)

On the eve of the long Lunar New Year holiday break, you probably wouldn’t like to be bogged down by such troubling stories as skyrocketing property prices, persistent political bickering, surging interest rates and the negative effects of a looming trade war. Amid the gloom is a piece of good news that should cheer up many Hong Kong residents.

They should be delighted to know that their much cherished tramway is undergoing a revamp that promises to make it even more endearing and lasting. But, don’t get alarmed — the double-decked cars painted in their distinctive green colors will still be around except that they’ll be making less noise on newly designed rails.

Except for some diehard traditionalists, the trams’ loud clanking and screeching as they make their way around the bends is one of the less desirable features of this ever popular mode of public transport in Hong Kong, especially to those living near the noisy sections of the track. But, help is on the way.

With government subsidy, to which nobody is likely to say no, work is underway to replace the track’s noisiest sections with a design featuring a rubber coating made of recycled tires, according to a local media report. The tram operator reportedly said the new feature would cut the noise level by 16 decibels, which should make a big difference to the ear.

The operator also said it would deploy more air-conditioned trams this summer by retrofitting old cars. A pilot scheme last summer is said to have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from passengers.

Although nostalgia plays a big part, Hong Kong’s people love for the trams is based very much on necessity. Slow and clumsy they may seem, the cars are the most convenient and cleanest form of public transport for people commuting between short distances on Hong Kong Island. They may, of course, have abundant choices in going from, say, Causeway Bay to Wan Chai, but nothing else can beat the convenience of just hopping onto a tram.

There have been suggestions to ban all traffic on the roads, except the trams, from the busiest road sections in the city’s commercial districts. That should make eminent sense. Not only can the idea partly solve Hong Kong’s chronic traffic woes, it can help reduce air pollution from car exhausts to a great extent.

The track overhaul has shown that it really doesn’t need a lot of money to improve tram services which, we hope, will be with us for many more years to come.

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