The Longest Escalator System in the World


As a question of national pride and prestige, nations have all strived to build the tallest structures. Typically, the World Trade Centre in New York City, has been challenged by the Petronas Twin Towers of Malaysia & the 101 Taipei Tower. With the demise of the former brought about by the unforgettable event of September 11, 2001 what other man-made structures will inspire others to rise tall from the ground? In the oil-rich Arab world, Dubai is the place mad & crazy with the most unimaginable & superb structures in the world.

450px-HK_Mid-Level_Escalators.jpg The Elgin Street Entrance – Central-Mid-Levels Escalator

There will always be something for the nations in the world to boast about. Smaller nations like to show the world that they are coming of age and are equally able to produce this and that. It’s not necessary to boast only of structures that are out of this world, for there are feats of accomplishment very down to earth. In the bustling streets of Hong Kong Island, there is this humble and perhaps little known structure – the longest escalator in the world!

200px-Central-Mid-levels_escalator_.jpgInside The Escalator – Right Downward Walk Descent

Twisting up through Hong Kong’s narrow streets is the world’s longest escalator system, spanning over 800m. This is the Central-Mid-levels escalators (traditional Chinese: 中環至半山自動扶梯) – yes indeed the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. The escalators, moving walkways and pedestrian bridges connect the downtown financial district to the mid-levels, a upscale neighborhood of condominium towers where many executives live.

494376004_27321b2302_o.jpgConnecting Pedestrian Bridgertw_2004.1149530220.p1010259.jpgShops, Restaurants Galore With Easy Access

While skyscrapers demand and necessitate the use of lifts, the hilly topography of the streets in the Central District of Hong Kong requires the ease and convenience of vertical ascent through the use of a series of travelators and escalators. Starting from Queen’s Road Central/Queen Victoria Street Junction, it ends up at Conduit Road. For a greater part of the stretch, the escalators made their way up along Shelley Street. Imagine if you have to climb by the traditional step way! It’s truly amazing, providing an interesting feature of sight-seeing quite unlike any other. Be prepared to use the steps on the way down.

Along the way it cuts through such major roads as Hollywood Road, the area known for its antique, Bridges Street, Cains Road and Robinson Road. The end of each stretch offers something of interest to the tourists. If you are on the hunt for antiques of ceramic wares, hungry for a taste of delicious noodles, or just to photograph the quaint shops, every junction provides you the thrill of the day. As you ascend, you begin to wonder how the early settlers built upon such a hilly environment with such scanty flat land. No wonder Hong Kong expanded vertically before its horizontal expansion.

The escalator system was conceived to alleviate car traffic by helping commuters travel efficiently to work while providing protection from rain. The escalators, since its completion in 1994, have proven to be very popular, carrying over 45,000 people a day. It’s functionally aesthetic creating a unique cross sectional city view. With the connection to a series of shopping malls, ferry terminal & new office buildings, the convenience of daily commuting to work, shop, restaurants & play has been the greatest benefits to the folks living in the area. It has transformed the neighbourhoods it connects.

During my first visit to Hong Kong back in 1972, I stayed at Hilton Hotel. Now the Hotel is no longer there, and in its place a taller structure (Cheong Kong Centre, reputedly owned by Li Kah Shing and given the desired address as No. 1 Queen’s Road) presents the rapid progress of Hong Kong. When a five-star hotel could economically give way to progress, what more can we say of lesser structures. In a land-hunger Hong Kong the question of permanency is unheard of – I guess sentiment must make way for progress. This sentiment was popularised by Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore at the time of its rebuilding and along its road of progress.

Despite the economic downturn, Hong Kong’s skyline always present a vibrant air with bamboo scaffolding, towering derricks and cranks, highways, freeways, tunnels, bridges and the ever land reclamation projects. Will anything ever slows down Hong Kong? Perhaps not! It is truly a City that never sleeps. Life just goes on and on.

Paul Chong

A Chinese by Descent

An Australian by Consent

(25 November 2001)


9 thoughts on “The Longest Escalator System in the World

  1. shanghai lily

    These pictures bring back memories of my recent trip to HK. I had also been on this long escalator system, wondering when it would end. It is amazing they thought of such a way of transporting pedestrians. There are people who live in apartments adjacent/ next to the escalator. So, if they are not careful in closing their windows or blinds, you could peep in. Not that I did.

  2. Paul Lim

    With your self-confessed ability to “squeeze” a few “extra” hours out of a 24-hour day, it is no wonder you can chalk up such informative and interesting articles. However, I think only senior citizens like me have the patience to read through them to the end. And at the end to post a comment. Think of your readers as the great variety of commuters who get on the longest escalator in HK. Most of them would have got off at some point on it.Perhaps only those with time on their hands eg Seniors like me will complete the “journey”. Anyway and this is meant as a feedback to you, not meant to offend a dear friend, I DO find your articles a bit too long. Maybe this is why there are so few comments as your readers, like the commuters, would have exited some where along the way without so much as a word of thanks.Remember, nowadays people do not have time for each other unlike our mothers’ time in Pokok Assam,Taiping in the 1950s. Keep on writing. It is like fishing. Sometimes you get plenty of fish, at times nothing. But you have had your enjoyment just fishing or just writing. God Bless Us All.

  3. Hi Paul,

    I like the idea of the escalator in HK. When I
    was there in 1966 it sure was very much different to what it must be today. I think I need to make another trip there to catch up. Thanks for helping to bring me up to date on whats happening there.


  4. Adrian

    Dla czego w Polsce nie buduje się takich ruchomych schodów w centrach zatłoczonych miast.
    (For what Poland does not build such escalators in congested urban centers – Polish Translation)

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