INFRASTRUCTURE

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge now unlikely to open next year

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2015, 3:23am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2015, 3:23am

It is looking increasingly unlikely that the bridge being built across the Pearl River will meet its completion deadline next year, the transport minister has admitted.

The expected delay came on top of the government's request to inject another HK$5.46 billion into the project, for which a Legislative Council panel signalled its support yesterday.

The opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge was to be in 2016, according to the bureau of Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, up to the end of last year.

But Cheung told lawmakers it was a difficult mission.

"It seems to me Hong Kong's boundary-crossing facilities and connecting works cannot be finished in 2016," he conceded.

Regarding a new target date, Cheung said an update would be available only after the Highways Department finished a comprehensive review of the project.

In 2011, the council's Finance Committee approved the use of HK$30.4 billion to build an artificial island northeast of Chek Lap Kok airport and border-crossing facilities.

The bridge will connect the two shores of the Pearl River Delta, linking Hong Kong with Gongbei in Zhuhai and A Perola in Macau.

At the end of last year, the government announced the need for an extra HK$5 billion due to rising wages of construction workers and costs of materials and machinery.

The amount was refined to HK$5.46 billion at the Legco meeting yesterday.

Director of highways Peter Lau Ka-keung said part of the additional budget would go towards building the superstructure of immigration facilities.

Construction costs had been increasing because of the many infrastructure projects going on in Hong Kong and surrounding areas, Lau said.

In the face of urgent deadlines, construction companies had also submitted higher bidding prices to cope with the increased risks, he added.

Cheung said a start on the project was pushed back from 2010 to 2011 because of a judicial review of an environmental assessment on the bridge.

"The later the bridge is completed, the higher the costs," he said. "There is an urgency in finishing the project."

Lawmakers also finalised funding of HK$63.4 million for a study exploring the development of commercial facilities atop the bridge's border checkpoint.

Legco's Finance Committee approved the Development Bureau's funding request, which was up from the HK$61.9 million estimated in June last year.