Proposed Kowloon Tramway System - 1923
In November 1923 The Far Eastern Review (“FER”) reported that the Government of Hong Kong had invited tenders for the construction and operation of a tramway system for the Kowloon peninsula. Construction was to be completed by December 1925 and the term would be for 25 years.
The FER described six intended routes providing a combined length of 9.2 miles. I have created a map indicating the routes which are colour-coded and these have been superimposed onto a survey map of Kowloon dispatched to the Colonial Office in London in 1926, although this appears to have been an updated map from a 1923 survey.
There is an external website entitled “The Kowloon Tramway That Never Was” (Link ), which shows a proposed route map purportedly dated as 1919. No source for the map is provided. There are likewise six routes suggested in this earlier map but there are significant differences to the positions of the termini. It is almost certain that the proposal being considered by the Government in 1923 had evolved since the 1919 outline and some tinkling with the destinations had been made, most notably that Route 3 would terminate further north “in the Kowloon foothills at Kowloon Tong” rather than at Kau Pui Shek (a.k.a Kau Pai Shek) which served Kowloon City. However, I also suggest that there are errors on the 1919 map. The road marked as Waterloo Road cutting N.W. to Kowloon City has in my opinion been misidentified and should be marked as Argyle Street. Waterloo Road’s junction with Nathan Road (ex-Coronation Rd.) is considerably further south and closer to Public Square St. in Yau Ma Tei. The creator of this 1919 map, however, portrays Waterloo Rd as commencing on the waterfront at Mong Kok.
Yet another error, I suggest, is that the tramway would proceed westwards along “ Boundary Street” to Kowloon City” . My problem with this suggestion is that published maps between 1920 and 1927 do not yet show a street formerly named as Boundary Street. The maps from this era are marked as the “old Frontier”. Granted that there are footpaths and a narrow roadway in parts along this boundary line but no substantial construction of a main thoroughfare. Even the 1926 map upon which I have drawn the suggested tram routes there is still not formerly named Boundary Street, although one had been pencilled in as a future development. However, Prince Edward Road, slightly to its south, had already been extended (c.1922 -1923 ?) as a major thoroughfare leading to Kau Pui Shek. I suggest, therefore, that the 1919 map should also have shown this proposed tram route (No.4) running along Prince Edward Rd and not Boundary St.
The tramway system was never built and I am still searching for a definitive notice published by the Public Works Department withdrawing the tender invitation and abandonment of the plan. I surmise that the project died because in the mid-1920s Hong Kong entered a long and severe period of economic recession. It started with left-wing anti foreign strikes and demonstrations in Canton, which had spread there from the International Settlement Shanghai. Matters weren’t helped when British & French troops guarding their "Concessions" on Shameen (Shamian) island opened fire with machine guns on a rowdy crowd on the Chinese side across the Shameen bridges (the “Shakee (Shaji) Massacre”) . In 1925 the strikes and trade boycotts spread to Hong Kong and two or three hundred thousand Chinese residents deserted the place, returning to their Mainland villages. It wasn't until about 1928 that the economy started slowly recovering but by then omnibuses were becoming the fashion.