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Public transport – just the ticket

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After writing this column for the past 10 years I can report that the email feedback that I receive is polarised.

Firstly, I receive many requests to review high-performance eco-unfriendly vehicles.

German cars, V8s – anything that goes fast – and who cares how much fuel it uses to get there?

I equally receive requests from green doctors to review relatively environmentally-friendly cars.

Hybrids, electric cars, anything that goes a long way without producing too much CO2.

In deference to the second group I thought that this month I’d take a different look at how to get from A to B.

That is, no car review this time, but a peek at the public transport system.

To set the bench-mark as high as possible, I road-tested the public transport system in Hong Kong to see what might lie ahead for all of us in a world without cars.

My journey started at the airport where I bought an Octopus Card for $300 Hong Kong dollars (about $A42).

This included an each-way trip on the Airport Express to the city and unlimited MTR (train and bus travel) for three days.

Oh, and as an added bonus, the Airport Express part of the journey also includes free transfers to and from your hotel on a local bus.

Once purchased, the Octopus Card can be topped up for travel on other transport, such as trams and ferries.

And the same card can be also used to pay for small value items at hundreds of locations, and can even be used in some taxis.

The Octopus Card is so smart that it only needs to be in the vicinity of the reader, and doesn’t even have to leave your wallet or purse to be read.

Public transport in Hong Kong is unbelievably cheap, with a scenic bus trip across the island to Stanley only costing $A1.10, and travelling the whole 13 kilometres of historic tramways costs only 32 cents.

The Star Ferry to Kowloon across the harbour only costs 35 cents each way, and the views of the sky-line and the laser light show are free.

When using public transport in Hong Kong there are some idiosyncrasies to master, such as on buses you pay on the way in and on trams you pay on the way out.

While all the signs are bilingual, there is still room for confusion as there are two stations on the train network with what seems like the same name (Wan Chai and Chai Wan).

In providing what is arguably the best public transport system in the world, it does help that Hong Kong is still the most densely populated city on earth.

There are twice as many skyscrapers in Hong Kong as there are in New York.

Hong Kong also boasts more Rolls Royces per capita than anywhere else but, apart from the trip to Stanley, there isn’t really anywhere to drive to.

For those that like walking, Hong Kong also boasts the longest escalator system in the world.

At 800 metres, it takes locals down-hill from Soho in the morning, and at 10.15am it reverses its direction to take them home.

Hong Kong is a great city, and like all great cities you don’t need a car to get around.

Safe motoring,

Doctor Clive Fraser

Email: doctorclivefraser@hotmail.com