Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

New bid hurdle for HK-Zhuhai bridge

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 February, 2012, 12:00am

Construction of the multibillion-dollar Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge could face further delays when the government re-tenders a major contract after bidders quoted 'unreasonably high prices'.

The Transport and Housing Bureau said earlier that a further HK$6.5 billion would have to come from the public purse to pay for the extra staff, technology and equipment needed to make up for lost construction time after a legal challenge stalled the project's progress for nearly a year.

In light of the warnings, bidding contractors all quoted prices based on worst-case assumptions - such as having to carry out underwater tunnelling at night - although the government made no such requests.

'We will soon re-tender the contract, the process will last for a month and if results are satisfactory, it should not affect our progress,' a bureau spokeswoman said.

The HK$83 billion bridge across the Pearl River Delta is being built jointly by Zhuhai, Macau and Hong Kong, whose section will cost at least HK$48.5 billion and includes a 12-kilometre link road to the main bridge at the edge of Hong Kong's territorial waters. The contract in question is one of the two that make up the HK$16.2-billion link road, while the other one is still open for tender.

If bidding prices remain high after the second tender, the government will have to seek more funding from the Legislative Council.

'Bidders should not have the illusion that lawmakers will accept whatever prices they seek,' Liberal Party lawmaker Miriam Lau Kin-yee said. 'This is taxpayers' money - we cannot pour it out on a project, no matter how important it is, at any cost.'

The bridge project is designed to be a major artery for cargo and passengers between the southwestern provinces and Hong Kong. Following approval by the central government in 2008, construction began in Zhuhai and Macau in 2009 and was expected to be complete by 2016.

Hong Kong, however, has lagged seriously due to various challenges on environmental grounds. Work on the main bridge section only began in December, although officials pledged to compress the project so the whole bridge could open on time.