A HK$1.5 million renewal of tram tracks using a rubber coating to minimise noise in some neighbourhoods gets under way on Monday.

Starting with a 100-metre stretch at Shau Kei Wan

terminus, Hong Kong Tramways will cover parts of the tracks with a layer of elastic rubber before embedding it in concrete.

“We picked this junction because residents here often complained about traffic noise,” said the company senior engineering manager Steven Chan Si-yiu.

Made in Belgium from recycled tyres, a metre of rubber costs around HK$9,000 and another HK$5,000 for maintenance.

The company’s managing director, Emmanuel Vivant, said the cost would not be passed on to the commuters right away, but did not rule out the possibility of a fare rise in the future.

“We have a lot of improvement projects that we are working on. Sooner or later with all the costs increased, we might have to do so,” said Vivant. “But we have no immediate plan at the moment.”

Chan said the eco-friendly rubber reduced friction between the wheels and the tracks, minimising noise and vibration caused by the tram’s movement.

“On-board comfort for passengers is improved too. The noise is reduced by between 16 and 20 decibels,” Chan said.

The renewal work has been welcomed by Shau Kei Wan residents. “The noise was like thunder striking in my heart every night. I think I will sleep better now,” said 68-year old Mrs Ho, who lives in a lower floor near the terminus.

Both eastbound and westbound tram services between Shau Kei Wan Road, Aldrich Bay Road and Shau Kei Wan terminus are suspended from Monday until Wednesday.

Asked if the new technique would be applied to the entire track, Chan said: “It would be extremely costly if the 30km track was to be covered with rubber.”

Work would only take place in sections in residential areas with heavy traffic, he said.

The next phase of the company’s project, planned for July, will be a 60-metre stretch in Percival Street, Causeway Bay, and 80 metres of track in Tin Lok Lane, Wan Chai.

With the rubber coating, the life span of the track will be increased from six to 12 years.

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.