International bidding for the US$3.8 billion Pearl River Delta bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai is expected within months under a tight planning schedule that aims for building to start before the end of the year. The bridge could be completed by 2010, Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung said yesterday. 'The central government wants to speed up the realisation of the proposed bridge. Ideally, construction will start at the end of this year or early next year.' The project would be put out to international tender after approval by the central government, Ms Liao said. The Hong Kong government has said that a public-private partnership model may be adopted to fund the project. Hopewell Highway Infrastructure (HHI), spun-off on the mainboard from construction and toll-road group Hopewell Holdings in 2003, is a strong proponent and front-runner for the project. With $2 billion on hand, HHI managing director Thomas Jefferson Wu said last month the firm had sufficient resources to build the second phase of the Western Delta project, widening the Guangzhou-Shenzhen superhighway and possibly investing in the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project. Cheung Kong Infrastructure had said in 2003 it was interested in taking a stake in the bridge project. That year, HHI chairman Sir Gordon Wu Ying-sheung said the firm would want to take a 50 per cent stake in the project - a personal brainchild - by contributing $2.5 billion. This would amount to 50 per cent of the equity funding, assuming 66 per cent of the estimated $15 billion construction cost would be raised through bank loans. The 28km bridge would connect with HHI's toll roads - the 122.8km Guangzhou-Shenzhen Superhighway, the 38km Guangzhou east-southwest ring road and the proposed 56.7km Guangzhou-Zhuhai superhighway - in a loop network at the heart of the Pearl River Delta. A 100-member group, comprising officials and experts from Hong Kong, Beijing, Guangdong and Macau, agreed at the weekend on the landing sites - San Shek Wan on Lantau, Perola in Macau and Gongbei in Zhuhai. The bridge would cut travel between Hong Kong and Macau to about 30 minutes.