Hong Kong Highways Department director Mak Chai-kwong said inter-government studies of the mammoth 49km bridge that would link Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai had reached the final stages. The three regional governments are examining the final feasibility studies for the multibillion-dollar project after having finally reached a consensus on alignment of the route and landing points of the bridge. At a panel discussion on infrastructure in the Pearl River Delta, Mr Mak said that after each government completed its review, the final feasibility study would be sent to the central government for approval. While declining to set a timetable for when plans would be sent to Beijing, Mr Mak said: 'Progress on this is by no means slow. In fact, I would say progress has been excellent.' He said that during the past 14 months, the Hong Kong government had commissioned some 30 topical studies on issues including the impact on the environment and Chinese white dolphins. Mr Mak is part of the co-ordinating group of government representatives that has set plans for the bridge's route. In May, it began considering 10 alignment options, and narrowed them down to the one contained in the final study. In the plans, the bridge would head due west from Lantau Island and veer southwest after passing the Qingzhou Channel, roughly the halfway point. Questioning the possibility of including a railway line along the bridge, MTR Corp chief design manager Malcolm Gibson said it was imperative to decide the intended market. Passenger traffic would most likely gravitate towards buses or private vehicles, Mr Gibson said. Targeting the freight market posed challenges for a rail system because of logistical issues in transshipment. For freight rail to work, it will need to be integrated with a port and transverse a substantially dense cluster of factories, neither of which is the case with these plans.