Construction has finally begun on the giant Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge after a legal challenge to its environmental assessment report delayed it by a year. That delay meant extra manpower and equipment would be needed to meet the 2016 deadline for the mammoth project, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen reiterated at a launch ceremony yesterday. The first stage involves building a 150-hectare artificial island that will hold boundary-crossing facilities, costing HK$30.43 billion, and a bridge linking Tuen Mun and Chek Lap Kok. The project was delayed after the Court of First Instance ruled that the environmental impact assessment for the project failed to meet the government's own standards. The ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal in September, and the government said the delay had pushed up costs by HK$6.5 billion. Total costs are estimated at HK$83 billion. 'Although the local construction work for the bridge was delayed for a year because of a judicial review earlier, we will tighten the schedule by altering construction methods and deploying extra manpower and machines, so the bridge can open in 2016 as planned,' Tsang said. Sun Ziyu, president of contractor China Harbour Engineering, said more equipment was needed to speed up the transport of construction material, and additional workers had been hired, but he could not estimate the impact on costs. 'There's some impact from the delay, but we will try our best to control costs,' Sun said. 'It's a challenge to finish such a large quantity of work in a limited period. We have to ensure airline safety and environmental protection.' The artificial island will be created without dredging, using a method that will reduce the amount of mud churned up from the seabed and dumped elsewhere by 97 per cent and cause less disruption to the underwater environment. A series of interlocking steel cells will be sunk, penetrating marine mud and resting on firmer underlying layers of clay and gravel.