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Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

Minister reveals overspend on delayed Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

Hong Kong portion of the mega bridge is likely to be finished by the end of the year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 2017, 7:55pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 10:26am

Hong Kong will have to dig even deeper into its coffers to pay for the multibillion-dollar bridge linking the city to Zhuhai and Macau because the main stretch has overrun its budget, transport minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung admitted on Thursday.

The additional cost has not been revealed, but all three governments building the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge will have to chip in on a proportional basis to make up the difference.

The construction cost of the main section in the waters of Lingdingyang in the Pearl River Estuary has topped 15.73 billion yuan (HK$17.74 billion), to which Hong Kong contributed about 43 per cent at 6.75 billion yuan.

“The final cost for the main bridge will be higher than the original estimate due to some construction and manpower challenges,” Cheung said on Thursday during a site visit to inspect the Hong Kong border crossing facility at Chek Lap Kok.

“So far we don’t have the exact figures,” Cheung said. “A task force formed by representatives from the three governments has already sent financial experts to assess the cost overrun. When we get hold of the actual situation we will give a full account to the public.”

Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, a former railway boss, said it was unacceptable that the government was only revealing the cost overrun at such a late stage.

“I suspect the main bridge will cost more than double the original amount,” he said.

“All along we have assumed the main bridge will not have an overrun issue because when the government applied for additional funding to cover the Hong Kong section’s overrun, it didn’t mention the main bridge.

“I don’t want to see the government coming to the Legislative Council for funding again. It had better continue to take out loans to settle the cost overrun.”

When the mega project was undertaken in 2009, the financing comprised two key parts – cash contributions from the three governments and a 22 billion yuan syndicated loan from financial institutions. The loan will be repaid using income generated by the bridge after it opens at a date yet to be decided.

As for the Hong Kong section, which links the main bridge to Chek Lap Kok – the reclaimed island off Lantau that houses the airport – Cheung said progress had been satisfactory, and that the drifting of an artificial island to house immigration facilities had become stable.

Albert Lee Wai-bun, the Highways Department’s project manager for the Hong Kong section, said construction was on track to be finished by the end of this year.

The HK$25 billion stretch of road required reclamation work, and its sea wall construction was under way, Lee said. The 12km road will have three lanes in each direction.

The Hong Kong part of the bridge, which is costing HK$117 billion, was delayed for a year to the end of this year amid a string of construction obstacles.

All three governments have yet to work out an opening date for the bridge.

“We still need to study the actual immigration and cross-border transport arrangements, such as the issue of cross-border permits, with the other two governments,” Cheung said.