Just when I thought the cable problems of Ngong Ping 360’s cable car system had been resolved, an old nemesis has come to haunt this fledgling tourist attraction.
After a mechanical failure was discovered during the Chinese New Year week, MTR Corporation, which operates the cable car, decided to suspend its operations for two months to replace worn ball bearings, among other things.
The latest incident involved mechanical failure that left 800 cable car riders suspended in the air for two hours. Imagine the anxiety these passengers felt while they were airborne in chilly (3 degree Celsius) conditions, uncertain of what’s going to happen. It is likely that these scared passengers would tell friends about their ordeal or share their experience on social media, creating a negative spin about the snafu. It may not be easy to rely on future guarantees from NP360 if such seemingly random technical issues continue to persist.
There’s no question the MTR, after past disruptions, have been very careful in its maintenance of cable cars and accessories. A preliminary investigation points to a faulty ball bearing as the culprit. Wear and tear can hardly be a factor if the ball bearing’s expected lifespan is 90,000 hours; it has been used for 25,000 so far.
It is just unfortunate for an attraction that has already gathered loyal following among locals and enthusiasm among tourists. I often see long queues of riders every time I pass by, no wonder buying in advance is always advised. Ngong Ping 360 is expected to lose about HK$35 million during the two-month suspension of operation of its cable car rides. But a bigger worry could be how the company could guarantee future mishaps are not going to happen anymore. With a history of problematic cables, NP360’s reputation could be hanging by a thread.
The latest mishap means visitors planning to make Ngong Ping part of its itinerary may need to change their travel plans. Anyway, even if NP360’s cable car is closed to the public, Ngong Ping village – the destination of all cable car rides – is still open to the public and can be accessed via other transport means.
Ngong Ping 360 was established in 2006 aiming to become one of Hong Kong’s notable tourist pit stops, helped by its close proximity to Hong Kong International Airport and Hong Kong Disneyland, another tourist drawer.
The impact to this is that tourists have to look elsewhere to make their Hong Kong visit memorable. But while we wait for the two months NP360’s problems get rectified, I hope that it’s loyal followers continue to support their beloved ride.