Plans to build a bridge between Shenzhen and Hong Kong are operating to a tight schedule, although completion is still set for 2005, says an official. Xinhua reported this month that during a meeting with Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa a mainland official had proposed Shenzhen and Hong Kong share equally the cost of building the link between Shekou and Yuen Long. The 5.26km dual three-lane bridge is estimated to cost about $2.24 billion. Director of Highways Leung Kwok-sun said yesterday that under the original plan Shenzhen was providing all the funding. However, the Shenzhen authority last year proposed that Hong Kong shoulder part of the cost, he said. 'It is difficult to say if it is fair or unfair. Both sides will benefit,' he said. It would take two years to complete preliminary studies, including environmental impact assessment, and construction would take three years. 'The mainland wants it to be completed earlier, but we know time must be allowed to conduct some preliminary studies involving the environmental impact assessment,' Mr Leung said. 'Without any agreement, we cannot ask the Legco to approve the funding for the assessment. It does not necessarily mean a delay but the schedule is very tight.' The bridge would ease traffic flow at three cross-border checkpoints for vehicles. 'We hope there could be an extra [cross-border] road as soon as possible,' Mr Leung said. Spaces had been provided for a checkpoint near the Deep Bay Link which will join the bridge and Route 10. A spokesman for the Planning and Lands Bureau said cost-sharing had not been ruled out. 'However, no concrete proposal has been put forward to the Hong Kong and Mainland Cross-Boundary Major Infrastructure Co-ordinating Committee. We are still waiting for their proposal,' the spokesman said. The Shenzhen authorities were not available for comment. Mr Leung said five proposals entered in a design competition for the $5 billion Stonecutters Bridge were being considered by a panel of 10 experts. The proposals come from Britain, the US, Finland as well as joint ventures involving a Hong Kong company. The result will be announced on September 15. The Stonecutters bridge, which will run across the Rambler Channel and the entrance to the Kwai Chung Container Terminal, will have a kilometre-long main span. It will be the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world, ahead of the Tatara Bridge in Japan, which has a main span of 890 metres.