Look out for tram number 88 that has air conditioning!
Just in time to help beat the heat, there will be one tram going around Hong Kong Island that will be air conditioned. Yes -- one trial tram is being further modernized to see if it can lure more people to get back on the ding ding.
From Monday, the tram car with the lucky number 88 will be riding the rails for three months, and fares will be the same as non air-conditioned ones. Temperatures will be set at 23, 25 and 27 degrees Celsius and passengers will be surveyed on which setting should be adopted.
Senior engineering manager Steven Chan Si-yiu explained it cost HK$250,000 (US$32,170) to retrofit air conditioning in the car, and did not rule out fare hikes if there were more air-conditioned cars in the future.
He did not reveal how much electricity the car uses for air conditioning; however, if there are more air-conditioned cars on the track, they have to be separated from each other, otherwise they may draw too much electricity at one spot and could bring down the grid.
The MTR extension has affected ridership on trams
Chan said that if the current fleet of 163 cars were fitted with air-conditioning, then Hong Kong Tramways would have to install power substations along the track to boost power voltage.
The company hopes having air conditioning will bring riders back to the tram. Since the MTR extended its Island line to Kennedy Town in December 2014, the number of daily riders has dropped to 180,000 from 200,000.
It'll be interesting to see how people react to having air-con in the tram -- probably a positive thing. But people are also price-sensitive these days, so it'll have to depend on how much the price hike is...