As the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB), the first major combined bridge and tunnel sea-crossing project in China, edges closer towards completion, a panel of distinguished speakers will discuss the probable pros and cons the new mega infrastructure project will provide for Hong Kong. SCMP Experiences Business, Oct. 29 This is part of an ongoing debate series we are sponsoring and as I saw plenty of the pro argument for the project in the write-up for the debate and little of the con, I thought I might provide some of that con myself. What we have here is a fine case of defying reality and falling victim to the blandishments of engineers who, asked for their opinion on any concrete-pouring exercise, will always say: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, great idea, let's build it, yeah, yeah, yeah." They're like bird dogs looking at a shotgun - slaver, slaver, slaver. The reality, already apparent 15 years ago, was that Hong Kong would gradually lose its pre-eminent position as a port city in the Pearl River Delta. It simply does not make sense to transport goods from Guangdong through an unnecessary border and then along the extra distance of traffic-clogged roadways in a densely packed city. Guangdong was always bent on building its own ports for its goods and has now done so. It has never had any reason to do Hong Kong any favours. But our chief executive at the time, old Ah-Tung, wouldn't hear of it. We must fight to keep our port as No1. To this end he commissioned a range of engineering studies ("yeah, yeah, yeah, great, let's build it"). The result has been that the New Territories is now slathered in woefully underused roads, tunnels and bridges. The port, meanwhile, continues its steady decline. All this has changed its fortunes not one bit. The big idea behind the element that constituted the Macau-Zhuhai Bridge was to encourage industrial development in the western Pearl River Delta and link it firmly to Hong Kong. This ignores that it was always firmly linked. The self-propelled barges that carry containers from Zhuhai and Zhongshan to Kwai Chung do a cost-effective and timely job. It looks messy but it works well. This also ignores that the western banks of the Pearl River were never significant industrial zones, unlikely to become so and prone to more rapid slowdowns than more suitable districts. The chart tells you that it is exactly what has transpired. The foreign trade of Zhuhai and Zhongshan so far this year is down 12 per cent from the previous year. We are building a time machine, a bridge to an illusion of the past. There are more illusions. The rah-rah backers of this lumbering albino pachyderm claim it will cut travel time to Macau to 40 minutes from more than four hours. I don't know what rowboat these people use to go to Macau but the high-speed ferries on which I travel take an hour. And it will be a 40-minute drive from Central on this bridge only at 3am on weekdays. Even then Hong Kong vehicles will not be allowed in Macau. The already congested roadways cannot take them. Drivers will have to leave their cars on a special big car park island now being reclaimed and then hop on public transport. The journey time will be longer. Meanwhile the costs rise. The latest estimate was HK$133 billion, up from an original estimate of HK$83 billion. Next stop HK$150 billion. Why do you think the engineers say "yeah, yeah, yeah"? But they didn't do their engineering studies properly. The mud has proved strangely non-compliant with their schemes. The delays grow. What a waste.