Construction of the long-awaited Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge will not start next year, although Guangdong expects to spend 5 billion yuan on the project before 2010. The provincial government has earmarked the amount in its 11th five-year plan. The director of the provincial Transport Department's planning section, Wang Fumin , said yesterday the project was complicated and 'the chances that we can begin construction next year are not great'. He was optimistic it could be completed by 2015. But Mr Wang said he was 'not optimistic' that the cost of the bridge, estimated at more than 50 billion yuan, could be recovered from tolls. 'We are considering plans for the government to provide funds to build the bridge but relying on toll collection alone, it is not optimistic,' he said. Delays would not increase bridge-building costs. The cost might even fall if bank interest rates decreased. Mr Wang said plans to build a bridge linking Shenzhen with Zhongshan , one of four new bridges spanning the Pearl River, would not have a big impact on traffic on the planned Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge as the two would serve different areas. 'No study has been done on the impact, but I personally think it will not exceed 10 per cent. It will be 5 to 6 per cent,' he said. Pearl River Delta expert Zheng Tianxiang agreed that the impact would be minimal because the Shenzhen-Zhongshan bridge was primarily meant for moving cargo. Mr Wang said the Shenzhen-Zhongshan bridge would not be built before the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge because its preliminary works would not begin until after 2010. He denied that delay in the construction of the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge would affect economic development, as the Eastern Corridor highway linking the east and west banks would be opened by the end of the year. Mr Wang said the 5 billion yuan to be spent by 2010 was a projection and negotiations had not touched on how Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong would share the cost.