(see also The Peak)
PEAK TRAM REOPENING
Following a major HK$799 million upgrade project the Peak Tram service recommenced on 27th August 2022 with the launch of the new 6th generation trams.
The project began in late 2018 following government approval of the plans and the award to the Peak Tramways Company of additional 10-year period operating rights from 2026 to 2035. The project has been wholly funded by The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Limited which owns the Peak Tramways Company and overan by 8 months owing to Covid related procurement difficulties and by HK$199 million in terms of cost.
The new dark-green liveried tramcars replace the old burgundy trams and increase the maximum capacity of passengers per trip from 120 to 210. In addition to new tramcars the project included replacement of all haulage, control and signalling systems, new ropes and track rails, and the refurbishment of the Central and Peak Termini to facilitate the new, larger capacity tramcars. The Central Terminus has been extended to provide covered, temperature-controlled arrival and waiting areas for up to 1,300 people which is expected to reduce queuing times by 70%. Platforms and tramcar floor levels have been aligned to provide enhanced step-free access for people with disabilities. 22 downhill facing seats allow a view of the harbour on the downward journey and there are eight secure parking places for wheelchairs and prams and wider windows for enhanced views.
6th Generation Peak Tram (Photo: Peak Tramways Company Limited)
During the renovation period there were two service suspension periods, the first from late April to late July 2019 followed by a further suspension from June 2021 until launch of the new trams. In between the two closure periods the Peak Tram operated from a temporary platform at the Lower Peak Tram Terminus on Garden Road.
5th Generation Peak Tram approaching Barker Road Station
The Peak Tram is operated on behalf of the Hong Kong Government by the Peak Tramways Company Limited, owned by Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels. It is a 1.4 kilometre funicular railway connecting the Central district of Hong Kong with the Peak. The Lower Peak Tram terminus is located at Garden Road and the Upper Peak Tram Terminus is located inside the Peak Tower, 396 metres above sea level and 150 metres below the summit of Victoria Peak. The journey is steep, with the sharpest incline at 45-degrees, and is spectacular with panoramic views over the northern coast of Hong Kong Island, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon. The tramway, which took three years to construct and first opened to the public in 1888, was the main route to the Peak and only form of transportation other than sedan chair until Old Peak Road opened in 1924. It was the first mechanical public transport in Hong Kong and is the world's steepest funicular railway. The Peak Tram was the brainchild of Scottish hotel owner Alexander Findlay Smith, whose Peak Hotel opened in 1880, eight years before the tram began operating and burned down in 1938.
The first generation trams from 1888 had no doors. The 30-seat trams were divided into three classes with the first two seats being reserved for the governor and passengers being reminded by a brass plate behind these seats. The governors summer lodge, Mountain Lodge, was located at the top of the Peak at that time. Passengers were only allowed to sit in these seats if the governor had not arrived two minutes after the tram had departed. The first-class fare was 30 cents, second-class 20 cents and third class 10 cents. The governors seats were discontinued from the second generation trams which were introduced in 1926 and until the 1960's there were two classes of seating, one for the rich and one for servants. Between 1904 and 1947 only Caucasians were allowed to live on the Peak unless granted an exception by the governor and in those days patrons of the Peak Tram were mostly wealthy foreigners and their domestic workers.
The trams were originally steam-driven until an electric cable haulage system was introduced in 1926. The current modernised enclosed two-car articulated trams and Swiss-built microprocessor controlled operating system were introduced in 1989 and are the fifth generation of trams. The two trams run in opposite directions and each has a passenger capacity of 120 passengers (95 seated and 25 standing). Trams operate at about 10/15 minute frequency and the journey from terminus to terminus takes about 8 minutes with a maximum speed of 21.6 km per hour. The tramway can currently operate up to 245 daily trips carrying a maximum of 30,480 passengers. At mid-2013 the average daily patronage was about 16,250 passengers. The peak hours on weekdays are 5pm to 7pm and the average waiting time is about 30 minutes. This can be much longer at certain times on weekends and public holidays.
There has never been an accident involving the Peak Tram and, other than for maintenance or adverse weather the only time the Peak Tram service stopped public operation was during the Japanese occupation of 1941-45 when the trams were used for transporting arms to barracks on the Peak.
In December 2013, the Peak Tramways Company was granted an extension of operating rights for two years until 31st December 2015 for a non-refundable land premium of HK$25 million for government land on which the tramway lies. The government has since considered long term arrangements for operation of the Peak Tram. New legislation by way of the Peak Tramway Amendment Bill (2015) is being introduced in May 2015 to enable the government to offer operating rights to any suitable operator from 1st January 2016 for periods of up to 10 years with the option of a 10 year extension. This has been necessary as previous legislation does not provide for a mechanism for an incumbent operator to exit and for a new operator to replace it. The Bill provides for an exit mechanism, ensures that the new operator would be able to take possession of the assets essential to the Peak tramway operation and provides the legal basis for the mandatory lease arrangements concerning land and related premises and the mandatory sale arrangements concerning other assets. Reasonable compensation would be offered to the owner of the assets. The Peak Tramways Company Limited, the incumbent operator of the Peak tramway, owns the two sites on which the two termini of the Peak tramway are located and the related premises as well as other assets essential to the Peak tramway operation. It has a good service and safety track record in operating the Peak tramway and in December 2015 the Government granted the Peak Tramways Company a new 10-year operating right from 1st January 2016 for an annual sum equivalent to 12% of annual revenue for the occupation and use of Government land on which the track of the peak tramway and the four intermediate stations lie. The Company will also set a service pledge on service frequency of the peak tramway.
NEW OPERATING RIGHTS AND UPGRADE PROJECT (Completed - see "Peak Tram Reopening" above)
As part of the negotiations for its new operating rights a HK$600 million renovation project was proposed which will see the existing two carriage trams replaced by four carriage trams with capacity increased from 120 to 200 passengers. Both the Garden Road and Peak Tower termini will be expanded to accommodate the longer trams enabling passengers at the Garden Road terminus who often have to queue along the road outside to be able to queue indoors in an air conditioned environment. The journey will be about 70-metres shorter than at present to accommodate expansion of the Garden Road terminus. Feasibility works commenced in late 2017. In October 2018 the Government granted the Peak Tramways Company a second 10-year operating right for the Peak Tram to commence 1st January 2026. Under the upgrading plan, the Company will increase the tramcar capacity by over 75% from 120 passengers to 210 passengers, construct a covered, temperature-controlled queuing and waiting area for about 1,300 passengers at the lower terminus and renovate the upper terminus platform areas. The implementation of the upgrading plan is expected to go a long way towards addressing the long-standing queuing problem at the terminus and bring about enhanced service provision to tourists and locals. The Company will invest over HK$650 million for implementing the upgrading plan which is expected to be completed in 2021. The Company has also been granted the use of three additional pieces of Government land with an area of about 426 square metres adjacent to the existing tramway area for implementing the part of the upgrading plan aiming to increase the holding capacity of the lower terminus and improve the waiting environment for passengers. Under the second 10-year operating right, the Company will continue to pay the Government annually 12% of its total annual revenue received in the year for the occupation and use of the additional Government land on top of the existing Government land on which the track of the peak tramway and the four intermediate stations lie. The Company will also set a service pledge on service frequency of the peak tramway as good as that in the first 10-year operating period. The tram service closed for three months between April and July 2019 in 2019 and will close again from 28th June 2021 for about six months before completion of the renovation in late 2021.
Inside the 5th Generation Peak Tram
The lower terminus is situated underneath St Johns Building on Garden Road (near Hong Kong Park, the Citibank Tower and distinctive Bank Of China Tower) and the upper terminus is located inside the Peak Tower. There are intermediate stations at Kennedy Road, Macdonnell Road, May Road and Barker Road. Each of these stations is equipped with a stop request system although at busy times it may not be possible to board at intermediate stations as the train may be full to capacity.
5th Generation Peak Tram at Upper Terminus platform, Peak Tower
5th Generation Peak Tram crossing Kennedy Road
Lower Peak Tram Terminus Entrance on Garden Road. Peak Tram ticket office is on the right and Madame Tussaud's ticket office where Madame Tussaud's plus Peak Tram combo tickets allowing priority access to the Peak Tram is on the left
Peak Tram entry barriers to Peak Tram platform and Peak Tram Historical Gallery, Lower Peak Tram Terminus, Garden Road
5th Generation Peak Tram approaching the Upper Peak Tram Terminus in the Peak Tower
PEAK TRAM HISTORICAL GALLERY
Located at the Lower Peak Tram Terminus on Garden Road, in the concourse inside the platform entry barriers, the Peak Tram Historical Gallery features fifteen window displays with memorabilia illustrating the history of the Peak Tram during the 19th and 20th centuries. Exhibits include a replicas of a first generation Peak Tram carriage, the 1926 Haulage Room, ticket office and various uniforms. Admission is free for all passengers using the Lower Peak Tram Terminus.
Passengers using the Lower Peak Tram Terminus can view the Peak Tram Historical Gallery at the terminus concourse
PEAK TRAM FARES (effective from 27th August 2022);
Adult HK$62 single, HK$88 return
Child (3-11) HK$31 single, HK$44 return
Senior (65 and over) HK$31 single, HK$44 return
"Sky Pass" (combined Peak Tram/Sky Terrace 428 ticket) is also available which includes reduced admission charge to Sky Terrace 428. Prices are;
Adult HK$122 single, HK$148 return
Child (3-11) HK$61 single, HK$74 return
Senior (65 and over) HK$61 single, HK$74 return
Peak Tram website;
PEAK TRAM OPERATING HOURS;
7am until midnight daily. Trams operate at about 10/15 minute frequency
The Lower Peak Tram Terminus is located on Garden Road and is served by New World First Bus (NWFB) service 15C from outside Central Pier 8 on Hong Kong Island, and which also stops outside City Hall on Connaught Road Central. The bus service operates daily at about 15 minute intervals from 10am until 11-40pm and the journey takes about 10 minutes. The adult fare is HK$4.4. The service had been operated by both open-top double deck bus and single deck bus but the open-top bus was withdrawn in March 2014 having reached the end of its life.
15C bus at its starting point outside Central Pier 8 (adjacent to Star Ferry Pier - Central Pier 7). An open-top bus used on this service was withdrawn in March 2014 and the service is now mainly operated by and single deck buses.
This open-top bus which had been used for several years on route 15C was withdrawn from service in January 2014, having reached the end of its life. The service is now mainly operated by single-deck bus (see above)
The Lower Peak Tram Terminus can also be reached ON FOOT FROM CENTRAL OR ADMIRALTY MTR STATIONS within about 15 minutes walk. Garden Road where the Lower Peak Tram Terminus is situated is easily located by heading for the prominent Bank of China Tower (the very distinctive geometrically shaped glass sided tower with "forks" shooting up from the roof). Adjacent to the Bank of China Tower is the tall box-like structure of the Cheung Kong Centre and Garden Road runs uphill between these two buildings. The terminus is located near Citybank Tower at the first set of traffic lights. FROM CENTRAL MTR STATION take Exit J2 or Exit K. Exit J2 leads to Chater Garden from where Bank of China Tower is clearly visible. Exit K leads to Statue Square opposite the HSBC Building and the Bank of China Tower is visible to the left. From Bank of China Tower follow Garden Road uphill to the terminus. FROM ADMIRALTY MTR STATION take exit C1 and cross the bridge over Queensway to Pacific Place. In Pacific Place take the escalators on right which run up alongside the shopping mall. Go to the very top and cross the road to Hong Kong Park and follow the signs through Hong Kong Park to the Lower Peak Tram Terminus.
See VICTORIA PEAK (The Peak) for more information about the Peak.