Bridge to open in one go despite HK delays

Top News | Adeline Mak 24 Aug 2016

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, hit by delays in the HK$35.9 billion Hong Kong section, will open simultaneously in the three regions.

That means the mega project will not be commissioned before the end of 2017 - at least 12 months behind schedule.

Macau appears set to put the finishing touches on its border control operations building within the next few months, and the Zhuhai section of the bridge should be finished by year's end.

But the Zhuhai-Macau stretch of the bridge will not be opening ahead of the Hong Kong section, which has been hit by cost overruns and the shifting of the seabed that is causing "drifting" of the artificial island integral to the spans and the replacing of pilings.

Asked if Zhuhai and Macau would open their parts of the bridge ahead of Hong Kong, the deputy chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, Hu Zucai, said in Beijing yesterday that all sections will open at the same time.

It was understandable, he said, that some parts would take longer than scheduled due to technical difficulties. And the Zhuhai and Macau sections could still face delays given some of the technical difficulties, he added.

Hu was speaking at a commission briefing about progress of projects under China's 13th five-year plan.

The commission, which comes under the State Council, is China's top economic planning body.

A former president of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, Greg Wong Chak-yan, said the commission's stance was an obvious one.

"If the progress of the Hong Kong section is slower than those of Zhuhai and Macau, it's a must to wait for Hong Kong before commencing operations," he said. No one would be interested in using part of the bridge.

In fact, Wong said, the most challenging section in the construction of the link system should have been a submerged tube tunnel in the Zhuhai section rather than Hong Kong's artificial island. That was because deep dredging of the seabed for the tunnel had posed considerable technical difficulties.

Terence Chong Tai-leung, executive director of the Lau Chor Tak Institute of Global Economics and Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, believes the delay will cause limited economic losses to Hong Kong.

"The populations of Zhuhai and Macau are less than two million," he said, "and the economic interaction between Hong Kong and Zhuhai and Macau had been of limited scale recently."

A Highways Department spokesman said a joint works committee comprising the three partners has still to conduct a final assessment before going to the central government with a revised target date for the bridge to be commissioned.

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