Glassier Swiss-made carriages and a redesigned lower terminus combine for a compelling revamp of the popular heritage attraction.
The oldest funicular railway in Asia will be looking better than ever when it reopens this Saturday (August 27) after a 14-month upgrade. Plying the steep slopes of Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak since 1888, the Peak Tram has been overhauled to the tune of nearly US$102 million, creating a vastly improved passenger experience.
Chief among these changes is the introduction of new sixth-generation tramcars manufactured in Switzerland. Riders can soak up the skyline views through larger windows and skylights, and the longer twin carriages allow for a total passenger count of 210, up from 120 in the past. As opposed to the burgundy-hued fifth-generation carriages, which were retired last year after more than three decades in service, their deep green color nods to earlier versions in use from the late 1940s to 1980s. Visitors with reduced mobility will enjoy step-free access from the moment of arrival to the platforms and tramcars.
While engineers have replaced the track rails, ropes, and control and signaling systems, the redesigned stations at both ends offer greater passenger comfort. A much-needed extension of the lower terminus in Central includes covered and air-conditioned arrival and waiting areas with room for 1,300 people. Here, visitors should look out for exhibits like a replica of a first-generation tram and vintage mechanical equipment once used to haul older carriages up the track. In another section, LED screens on the walls and ceiling spotlight the endemic fauna that still inhabit the forests around the Peak. Operators anticipate that waiting times will be cut by over 70 percent thanks to the increased capacity of the tramcars.
Also noteworthy is a new 10-meter-tall bronze sculpture by Australian-Chinese artist Lindy Lee titled Eye of Infinity, which stands outside the Central terminus. Inspired by Hong Kong’s geography and “spirit of ascension,” as well as Taoist and Buddhist interpretations of the cosmos, the internally illuminated artwork is best seen after dark, when light filters through a host of tiny apertures.
All these improvements are reflected in the ticket prices, with passengers paying more than 60 percent for a round-trip fare: the typical cost is set at HK$88 (about US$11), compared to HK$52 (just under US$7) before the tramway’s temporary closure last June. The new-look Peak Tram will run from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on a daily basis, with journeys scheduled every 15–20 minutes.