It’s been 25 years in the mak­ing, but the Hong Kong-ZhuhaiMa­cau Bridge is now set to con­nect the Pearl River Delta

The long-awaited open­ing of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Ma­cau Bridge her­alds a wave of devel­op­ments aimed at in­creas­ing con­nec­tiv­ity through­out the Pearl River Delta

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS - WORDS CRAIG BRIGHT

Four man-made is­lands, a 22.9-kilo­me­tre-long stain­less-steel bridge weigh­ing some 400,000 tonnes, and the long­est sub­merged sea tun­nel in the world… This is the new Hong KongZhuhai-Ma­cau Bridge (HZMB), soon to be the world’s long­est cross-sea bridge and the jewel in the crown of a new wave of devel­op­ments aimed at fos­ter­ing greater in­te­gra­tion be­tween the cities of the Pearl River Delta (PRD). The HZMB project – which to­tals 55 kilo­me­tres in length – be­gan con­struc­tion in De­cem­ber 2012 as part of a joint ef­fort by Hong Kong, Ma­cau and the Chi­nese main­land, though the idea for a con­nec­tion across the Lingding Chan­nel that sep­a­rates the cities was orig­i­nally floated back in 1983. Fast-for­ward 35 years and the bridge is nearly com­plete, with the open­ing slated for July1 at the time of go­ing to press.

The ben­e­fits of the HZMB will be twofold: a re­duc­tion in trans­porta­tion times, and eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion. In 2015, the PRD re­gion ac­counted for 4.3 per cent of China’s to­tal pop­u­la­tion and 9.1 per cent of its GDP, ac­cord­ing to the Hong Kong Trade and De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil. With the Western PRD reach­able in three hours from Hong Kong, its ap­peal for ex­ter­nal in­vest­ment will be given a hand­some boost.

The HZMB Au­thor­ity projects that daily pas­sen­ger flow across the bridge will be about 56,000 peo­ple when it first opens, in­creas­ing to 230,000 by 2035. Be­tween 90 and 140 buses, op­er­ated by a sub­sidiary of Hong Kong-based

Shun Tak Hold­ings, which runs the Hong Kong-Ma­cau Tur­boJet ferry ser­vice, will run daily be­tween all three bor­der check­points (ev­ery five min­utes dur­ing peak hours). Fares are ex­pected to be HK$80 (around £8) to get to Zhuhai – sig­nif­i­cantly lower than the cur­rent HK$220 (£21) ferry and HK$130 (£12) coach costs us­ing dif­fer­ent routes.

The HZMB has been a ma­jor un­der­tak­ing. Start­ing from Hong Kong, the bridge be­gins at the Hong Kong Bound­ary Cross­ing Fa­cil­i­ties on an ar­ti­fi­cial is­land to the west of Lan­tau Is­land ad­ja­cent to Hong Kong In­ter­na­tional air­port (HKIA). From here the 12-kilo­me­tre-long Hong Kong Link Road runs west out into the Lingding Chan­nel to the edge of the Hong Kong bor­der.

The bridge then con­nects with a sec­ond ar­ti­fi­cial is­land that leads into the sea tun­nel – a ne­ces­sity to avoid ob­struct­ing the nearly 4,000 ships that use the chan­nel daily – which ex­tends 6.7 kilo­me­tres un­der the chan­nel at a depth of 40 me­tres be­fore emerg­ing once again at a third ar­ti­fi­cial is­land. This then leads on to the main 22.9-kilo­me­tre stretch of the bridge, com­pris­ing a to­tal of 2,156 con­nected box gird­ers that cross the rest of the chan­nel to the Zhuhai-Ma­cau Bound­ary Cross­ing Fa­cil­i­ties on the north­east­ern edge of Ma­cau. A fur­ther Zhuhai Link Road ex­tends be­yond this into the Chi­nese main­land.

It’s worth not­ing that driv­ers in Ma­cau, Hong Kong and main­land China don’t share the same traf­fic rules – Ma­cau and Hong Kong drive on the left side of the road, UK style, but the main­land fol­lows the US by driv­ing on the right. Ear­lier this year the HZMB Au­thor­ity

de­clared that the en­tire bridge will fol­low main­land China’s traf­fic rules, mean­ing all ve­hi­cles will have to keep to the right while on the bridge. Ad­di­tion­ally, all tolls will have to be paid in ren­minbi, re­gard­less of ori­gin or des­ti­na­tion – though you’ll be able to pay us­ing non­cash op­tions such as bankcards, elec­tronic wal­lets such as Ali­pay and WeChat Pay, and Au­to­pay, which al­ready ex­ists for bridge and tun­nel toll col­lec­tion in Hong Kong.

It cer­tainly hasn’t all been smooth sail­ing for the bridge’s de­vel­op­ment. Orig­i­nally slated to open in 2016, the project has been plagued by de­lays and de­spite its ex­pected open­ing this year, at the time of writ­ing it still doesn’t have a de­fin­i­tive launch date. Be­set by work­place ac­ci­dents as well as in­ves­ti­ga­tions into cor­rup­tion sur­round­ing con­trac­tors fak­ing con­crete test re­sults, which led to fur­ther con­struc­tion prob­lems, the over­all cost of the bridge has ex­ceeded the ini­tial bud­get by at least HK$11.8 bil­lion (£1.13 bil­lion) – around 30 per cent more than the orig­i­nal HK$38 bil­lion (£3.6 bil­lion) pro­jected cost.

How­ever, pro­vided the bridge does in­deed open this year, the gains will be seen across the three ter­mi­nus cities im­me­di­ately. For ex­am­ple, many of Ma­cau’s food im­ports and other sup­plies come via Hong Kong – cur­rently a jour­ney of up to a day. Once the bridge is open, this tran­sit time will be re­duced to about 30 min­utes.

Of course trade will be bol­stered by greater in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity across the Lingding Chan­nel, but trav­ellers and cor­po­rate event del­e­gates also stand to ben­e­fit. Speak­ing with our sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion Mix Meet­ings last year, Stephane de Mont­gros, co-founder and di­rec­tor of Riviera Events, noted that the bridge would open up fa­cil­i­ties across all three cities to tourists and event or­gan­is­ers. “We have no doubt the gov­ern­ments of the dif­fer­ent ar­eas will con­tinue to up­grade the bor­der cross­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, which will be key in of­fer­ing a pleas­ant and smooth ex­pe­ri­ence when trav­el­ling be­tween the three ar­eas. The roll-out of the e-gate sys­tem for both lo­cals and for­eign­ers

[in 2016] has been a fan­tas­tic im­prove­ment,” he said.

Other fa­cil­i­ties de­signed to cap­i­talise on the in­creased cross-flow of trav­ellers in­clude the Tuen

Mun-Chek Lap Kok

Link (TM-CLKL), a dual car­riage­way con­nect­ing the Hong Kong

Bound­ary Cross­ing

Fa­cil­i­ties at Hong Kong air­port to the city’s

Tuen Mun dis­trict on the western edge of the

Kowloon Penin­sula, which will im­prove ac­cess to the air­port for trav­ellers com­ing from the Shen­zhen bor­der.

Then there’s the new SkyC­ity mixed-use com­plex at HKIA, set to open in 2020 be­tween Ter­mi­nal 2 and Asi­aWorld-Expo, that will in­clude re­tail, din­ing, en­ter­tain­ment and com­mer­cial space, plus a sec­ond 1,000-room air­port prop­erty from Re­gal Ho­tels Group.

As well as pro­vid­ing an eco­nomic boost to Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Ma­cau, China’s govern­ment has broader plans to de­velop a Greater Bay Area that will com­prise cities across Guang­dong prov­ince in­clud­ing Guangzhou, Shen­zhen, Foshan, Zhong­shan, Dong­guan, Huizhou, Zhao­qing and Jiang­men. The lat­ter’s lo­cal govern­ment, in prepa­ra­tion, plans to in­vest some RMB100 bil­lion (£11.7 bil­lion) for new in­dus­trial and prop­erty de­vel­op­ment to help in­te­grate with its more de­vel­oped neigh­bour cities.

Some sec­tors, though, do not stand to gain from the open­ing of the bridge, most no­tably the ferry com­pa­nies, which are adapt­ing to the likely hit to their busi­ness. Some op­er­a­tors such as Zhuhai High Speed Pas­sen­ger Ferry Co are ad­just­ing their strate­gies, plan­ning to up­grade and fo­cus more on marine tourism. Oth­ers, such as Co­tai WaterJet, are part­ner­ing with air­lines to of­fer their own form of en­hanced con­nec­tiv­ity across the chan­nel. In Fe­bru­ary this year Co­tai WaterJet en­tered into a code­share agree­ment with Cathay Pa­cific (CX) that en­ables trav­ellers to book a sin­gle itin­er­ary through to Ma­cau’s Taipa Ferry Ter­mi­nal on one of six daily fer­ries via the SkyPier at HKIA. As with air route code­shares, this means you can check your lug­gage all the way through to the fi­nal des­ti­na­tion in Ma­cau. Ini­tially open to those trav­el­ling from Aus­tralia, Canada, New Zea­land, Sin­ga­pore and the US, the ser­vice is set to roll out across ad­di­tional in­ter­na­tional mar­kets in fu­ture.

The SkyPier it­self con­nects to nine ports scat­tered through­out the Pearl River Delta (in­clud­ing Ma­cau),

It cer­tainly hasn’t all been smooth sail­ing for the bridge’s de­vel­op­ment

...with ap­prox­i­mately 90 ferry trips op­er­at­ing each day be­tween th­ese ports and the air­port. “SkyPier also pro­vides up­stream check-in ser­vices for sea-toair pas­sen­gers from Ma­cau,” said a spokesper­son for the Air­port Au­thor­ity of Hong Kong. This fea­ture is par­tic­u­larly geared to­wards in­cen­tive groups trav­el­ling to and from Ma­cau via Hong Kong, es­pe­cially when it comes to im­proved check-in pro­ce­dures for trav­ellers de­part­ing Ma­cau.

Back in Hong Kong, the Air­port Au­thor­ity also has ini­tia­tives that en­able event or­gan­is­ers to set up ded­i­cated meet-and-greet coun­ters for del­e­gates in the ter­mi­nal area, along with set­ting up con­tain­ers for han­dling bag­gage for large groups, thus speed­ing up the process.

“If a con­fer­ence is held in Ma­cau and the group is us­ing SkyPier fer­ries, the Air­port Au­thor­ity can make spe­cial ar­range­ments with ferry op­er­a­tors, in­clud­ing char­ter­ing fer­ries tai­lored to the flight ar­rival time, short­en­ing times at Hong Kong air­port,” the spokesper­son added.

Th­ese en­hance­ments all make sense and add value, but it’s the HZMB that still forms the back­bone of HKIA’s plan to be­come the ma­jor hub con­nect­ing the PRD with the rest of the world. With this in mind, it is de­vel­op­ing an In­ter­modal Trans­fer Ter­mi­nal (ITT) at the air­port that will con­nect to the Hong Kong Bound­ary Cross­ing Fa­cil­i­ties via a bonded bridge.

The pro­posed lo­ca­tion of the ITT is cur­rently to the south of the SkyPier and will op­er­ate in a sim­i­lar fash­ion, pri­mar­ily serv­ing tourists to and from Ma­cau and Zhuhai who fly in and out of HKIA. Pas­sen­gers com­ing from the western PRD via the HZMB will be able to en­ter the air­port in one or two min­utes from the Hong Kong Bound­ary Cross­ing Fa­cil­i­ties with­out need­ing to go through ex­tra bor­der checks.

With travel time from Zhuhai to HKIA set to im­prove dra­mat­i­cally – from four hours to just 45 min­utes – there’s ev­ery chance the HZMB will in­deed bring about the Pearl River Delta in­te­gra­tion that its pro­po­nents have long been tout­ing.

BELOW: A map of the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link; un­der­sea tun­nel con­struc­tion

ABOVE: The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Ma­cau Bridge takes shape

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from International

© PressReader. All rights reserved.