Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated the world’s longest sea bridge connecting the financial centre of Hong Kong, the gambling hub of Macau and Zhuhai city on the mainland as Beijing steps up efforts to create a new economic base in southern China on October 23, 2018.
Described as a mega infrastructure project, the 55-km HKZM bridge, which includes a seven-kilometre underwater tunnel, was inaugurated within weeks of the opening of a high-speed rail link between Beijing and Hong Kong.
“I declare the officially open,” Xi said at an indoor ceremony in Zhuhai. He did not address the audience.
Built at a cost of $15 billion, work on the bridge began in 2009. It is expected to ease the movement of cargo between Hong Kong and southern China and boost tourism in the region.
Ahead of the inauguration, state media reported: “Made from enough steel to build 60 Eiffel Towers and enough concrete to construct 22 Chrysler Buildings, it can withstand magnitude-8 earthquakes, and is even prepared for super typhoons. This is something built to last a century of service.”
The bridge will be opened to the public on Wednesday, with state media reporting that it “will slash the travel time between Hong Kong and Zhuhai from three hours to just 30 minutes”.
The bridge links Hong Kong’s Lantau island to Zhuhai and the gambling haven of Macau, across the waters of the heavily industrialised Pearl River estuary.
“The bridge will cut the once arduous journey from Zhuhai to Hong Kong, to just half an hour, but this is just a piece of the puzzle. With high-speed rail finally connecting Hong Kong to the mainland network and infrastructure projects in progress across the Pearl River Delta, this is about multiple mega-projects knitting together an entire region,” official Xinhua news agency reported.
Access to the bridge, however, will be restricted.
“Hong Kong residents will only be granted a licence to cross into Zhuhai by car if they meet highly selective criteria, including holding certain mainland government positions or making major contributions to charities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. Most people will need to travel the bridge on coaches and buses,” Singapore-based Channel News Asia reported.
Building the bridge was not without its headaches, and the tunnel was one of them.
“Part of the bridge crosses two of Guangzhou Port’s shipping lanes,” Li Jiang, a project manager with HKZM Bridge Authority, explained to Xinhua. “If we were to build a bridge above these lanes, it would have to be very wide and tall.”
Compounding the problem, these shipping lanes pass right by Hong Kong airport, and any bridge tall enough to let ships pass would disrupt flight paths. “Building a tall bridge was not an option,” said Li, adding the tunnel was the solution.
“Technically speaking, we were at a loss in terms of existing long sea bridge projects that we could learn from,” said Luo Dong, vice general project manager for the Island and Tunnel Project of the bridge.
“The water conditions of the Pearl River Delta are so complicated. Building a bridge and tunnel system in this area was a real challenge.”
Courtesy: The Hindustan Times