Inside View

 

Inspector with
a View 

Safe Up High—This is the motto of Markus Spies, 34, who has been testing cable cars all over the world for eight years. Whether in Hong Kong, Dubai or the Alps, good views are guaranteed.

Photo Gareth Brown

In my profession, I’m always working at the limit. Cable cars dangle hundreds of meters above the ground, which is why I can’t make any mistakes or allow any imprecision. Despite the great responsibility, I love every second of my job. Where else are you rewarded every day with such breathtaking views? Where else do you get the chance to travel across the globe? Where else can you get a bird’s-eye view of so many cities and landscapes?

I usually come to Hong Kong twice a year to check the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. It runs about six kilometers from Lantau Island to the Ngong Ping Plateau. It crosses Tung Chung Bay and the huge national park on Lantau Island. You can hardly get over the amazement when you experience the 25-minute ride for the first time. The skyscrapers stretch up into the sky on one side, while airplanes glide down towards Hong Kong Airport on the other. The sea sparkles beneath the gondola, and then the cable car takes a sudden turn and you are floating above a green jungle, with a gigantic statue of Buddha rising up in front of you. It’s quite breathtaking and also the reason why the trip is so popular with tourists.

 

When I’m inspecting the cable car, I ignore the beauty of the journey and concentrate fully on the job. First I pore over the blueprints and plans downstairs in the office and examine the results of technical surveys, process sequences and quality checks. Later I head into the field and take a closer look at the cable car on site. The cable car in Hong Kong is not only particularly beautiful, but also pushes the limits of what is technically possible. Due to the proximity to the sea, the gondolas and facilities sometimes get hit with typhoons and gale-force winds roaring through at speeds of over 100 kilometers an hour, not to mention heavy rains. Despite all these weather conditions, the cable car must run punctually, smoothly and, above all, safely. Safety is my job. I advise MTR Corporation on all technical matters, suggest improvements and check whether all the components are state of the art.

Compared to the original construction of the cableway, however, this is actually a pretty straightforward task. Because the cable route runs through a protected nature preserve, many of the components had to be transported with mules at the time. I think it was worth the effort.