Caixin
Oct 23, 2018 07:04 PM
WORLD

World’s Longest Sea Crossing Opens — But Private Cars Limited to 11,000 for Now

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge’s toll entrance is seen in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, on May 23. Photo: VCG
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge’s toll entrance is seen in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, on May 23. Photo: VCG

Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge open Tuesday morning at a ceremony in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.

The 55-kilometer (34-mile) crossing connects the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau with the Chinese mainland, and combines an undersea tunnel with two bridges.

Originally slated for a 2016 opening as part of China’s Greater Bay Area plan in southern China, the bridge has faced multiple delays and a large budget overrun.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui were also present at Tuesday’s ceremony, the South China Morning Post reported. The crossing opens to traffic on Wednesday.

Only buses, taxis and private vehicles with special permits will be allowed to use the crossing, which is expected to cut the time to drive from Hong Kong to Zhuhai to 45 minutes, down from the current three hours.

A total of 10,000 private cars from Hong Kong and Macau and 1,000 mainland cars will have permits to use the structure for now, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The bridge, a joint effort by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau, was hailed by Frank Chan, Hong Kong’s Transport Secretary, on Friday as “instrumental in enhancing the flow of people, goods and capital, as well as technological collaboration within the region.”

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But the project has faced criticism from Hong Kong locals over its high cost and perceived low utility as well as from environmentalists, who have said that construction of the bridge could harm Chinese white dolphins that live in the Pearl River Delta. Hong Kong and Macau — which shares a land border with Zhuhai — are already connected by regular ferry services that travel from one city to the other in less than an hour.

The opening of the bridge comes just a month after the official launch of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, a high-speed rail connection between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland through the special administrative region’s land border with the metropolis of Shenzhen.

Both transport projects are key parts of the plan for integrating the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, which roughly overlaps with the Pearl River Delta region and includes some of the Chinese mainland’s key manufacturing and high-tech hubs.

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The Greater Bay Area began appearing in central government documents around 2015. Since then, the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau have signed an agreement laying out a plan to jointly develop the region. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology announced in May a plan to set up a Guangzhou campus in order to expand its reach across the region, while mainland tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. is in the process of developing digital identity documents for Greater Bay Area residents.

Contact reporter Teng Jing Xuan (jingxuanteng@caixin.com)

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