Hong Kong Trolleybus

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From: "Tim Runnacles" <timrunnacles@aol.com> [31 May 2005]
The Hong Kong trolleybus still exists, and has been tested on its circuit of wire for some three years now. However, at present it is not in operation because a spare part is awaited from Alstom. However, there are now doubts as to whether it will run again, at all.

The prospects for the future of the vehicle, and trolleybuses generally in Hong Kong, are not bright. The Government's Transport Department commissioned a series of studies from 1999 to 2001, on most of which I [the undersigned] worked. Two additional studies were carried out on behalf of Citybus Ltd. in 2002-03, one for a network in a new town on the site of the former Hong Kong Airport at Kai Tak, and the other for a network to serve the south side of Hong Kong Island [as a counter proposal to a scheme for an underground railway]. The Commissioner for Transport was keen to see trolleybuses introduced, at least on a trial commercial route, but his subordinates generally saw the whole business as being too complicated and difficult, so they resisted the idea.

By 2005 several adverse developments have dimmed the prospect for the use of trolleybuses [or even further testing of the prototype) even further:

  • Citybus, which was keen on trolleybuses, has been taken over by its competitor [New World First Travel], which is much less keen;
  • A long term economic downturn in Hong Kong has starved public operators of new investment;
  • The team which developed the trolleybus prototype is falling apart, with the leader having retired five months ago and the main engineer and his assistant both leaving next month; and
  • The Commissioner for Transport [Robert Footman], who was keen on trolleybuses, is being transferred to other [non-transport] duties as from 18 June 2005.

It might be added that consideration has several times been given to exporting the prototype trolleybus to Wellington [using the Stagecoach connection, as Citybus was previously a Stagecoach company]. Discussions on this subject continued until a few weeks ago, but there were always doubts about overhead clearances [actually applicable only on one route, which passes through a tunnel] and more recently the future of the Wellington system has been blowing hot and cold.

The most likely resting place for the Citybus trolleybus is Sandtoft, or possibly Carlton Colville. Citybus may well donate the vehicle to one of these museums, but it is not for me to speculate on this. Nevertheless, it would be a shame if such a remarkable, technically-advanced [and expensive] vehicle were to go straight from prototype testing into preservation!

The trolleybus experiment in Hong Kong has come to an end. The overhead wiring circuit has been dismantled and the vehicle is dumped. It is not a runner, not only because of the lack of wires, but also because it needs some spare parts [about 6000 pounds' worth] from Ansaldo. I wonder if a sponsor could be found to import it to the UK before it is too late? It still represents 'new technology', and with some apparent dampening of the enthusiasm for articulated vehicles, it is the only modern double-deck trolleybus anywhere. Historically it is also important, because [thus far] it is the very last British double-deck trolleybus ever built [even if it does have strong Portugeuse, Italian and German components]. Tim Runnacles.