Hong Kong’s iconic Peak Tram will make its long-awaited return on Saturday with roomier tramcars and brand new termini, following a 14-month renovation plagued by Covid-related global supply chain delays.
Featuring skylight ceilings and an increased passenger capacity from 120 to 210, the new tramcars are the result of a HK$799 million upgrade project that has seen its services suspended since June last year.
The revamp was originally meant to cost HK$684 million when it was announced in 2018. But its cost ballooned due to Covid-19 and related supply chain shortages, May Tsang, the general manager of the Peak Complex, told reporters at a media preview day on Wednesday.
“[Businesses] across industries took a major hit under Covid-19, and so did our project,” Tsang said, citing difficulties in procuring parts for upgrading the tram cars due to European supply chain issues.
The tramcars, with new signalling systems, ropes and track rails, were manufactured by three Swiss companies.
Tsang attributed the steep hike in Peak Tram fares to the increased project costs. After the promotional period ends on October 30, the price of a return ticket for adults will be HK$88, up from HK$52 before the revamp.
She said she believed passengers would still find the upgraded experience “value for money.”
One of Hong Kong’s most popular tourist attractions, the Peak Tram – running along a 1.4 kilometre track with front row seats of the city’s famed skyline – takes passengers up to The Peak.
First opened in May 1888 with a capacity of just 40 passengers, the tram served mostly residents and workers in the area. It evolved throughout decades of modernisation, from being powered by coal to run by a computer-controlled electric drive system today.
The revamped tram is the funicular’s sixth generation, painted in the same dark green shade as two earlier iterations. The most recent generation before the upgrade – in burgundy red – debuted in 1989 and served the city for 32 years.
The funicular features improved accessibility, with step-free access from the entrance of the termini to the tramcars. It also has wheelchair and baby-safe spaces.
As well as skylight ceilings, the wider windows also allow passengers to better take in the view from Victoria Peak. According to the Peak Tramways Company, the funicular ascends to up to 396 metres above sea level.
A wave-like floor design is meant to contribute to passenger safety. At its steepest, the tramcar travels along a track sloped at 25.7 degrees.
The Central terminus, located under the St. John’s Building on Garden Road, has been extended to provide covered, air conditioned waiting areas. Visitors can admire the LED screens on the wall and ceiling depicting the diverse flora and fauna – from colourful shrubs to butterflies and other insects – found at The Peak.
While Hong Kong eased its Covid-19 restrictions for incoming arrivals last month, the city still requires travellers to quarantine for three nights in a hotel.
Tsang said the Peak Tram saw over six million passengers a year between 2015 and 2018. In 2019, it fell to one million.
“It’s really difficult to project what the numbers are going to be when we open,” she said. “Again, it will very much depend on the border reopening schedule.”
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