One day in coming years it will be possible to pack the family in the car in Hong Kong and drive off across the Pearl River estuary to Hainan Island or even Vietnam, stopping for a dip in the Zhongshan springs. Before that shining moment, a great many hurdles have to be crossed. And even before the obvious engineering, logistical and financial barriers are surmounted, the bureaucratic difficulties must be tackled. In the short term at least, these cannot be under-estimated. A bridge may symbolically link Hong Kong with the rest of the Pearl River Delta. Yet in its own way it highlights the difficulties and suspicions still clouding the fledgling relationship as it evolves after a turbulent history. Each passing week seems to carry fresh signs of concern in Guangdong. The leadership in Beijing is reportedly keen, yet is not quite ready to set timetables, apparently aware of some tough provincial decisions ahead. In the latest sign, a prominent Guangdong academic and government adviser has warned that Hong Kong seems to be pushing ahead too quickly. The remarks of Zhongshan University's Zheng Tianxiang appear to suggest a sense on the mainland that Hong Kong is looking a little desperate after four years of deflation, a slump caused in part by its increased interaction with its much cheaper neighbour. 'The bridge will help Hong Kong, but it won't solve all of its problems,' he said. He is undoubtedly right. And if his views are widespread, then it means Hong Kong has to re-double efforts to ease suspicions to bring the project to fruition by providing planning and financial leadership. Perhaps the Hong Kong government needs a more acute grasp of the various rival sensibilities immediately across the border, where each county has an eye for self-sufficiency and growth. The government has already signalled its desire for a Y-shaped bridge - one that links Macau and Zhuhai but effectively cuts out fast-growing Shenzhen and its port, Shekou. An alternative, but more expensive, proposal from a group of Hong Kong companies seeks to cover all bases. In an ideal world, Hong Kong could quickly assess the rivalries across the border and bring the various parties together to forge a project that snares widespread approval. In practice, that is easier said than done as each side guards its own interests zealously. Yet, it doesn't take much vision or foresight to see that the bridge will benefit all. A bridge between Hong Kong and the other side of the Pearl River, whatever its alignment, would lop several hours off a journey that now takes at best half a day to complete, by ferry or bus. It would bring the western part of Guangdong closer to Hong Kong, still the financial engine of the region. And as the economic pie gets bigger, it should mean more wealth for all.