Estimates for traffic on Hong Kong mega bridge cut by up to 26 per cent because of competition, government admits
Mid- to long-term projections have been adjusted downwards due to several reasons including competition from new Shenzhen-Zhongshan bridge and rapid redevelopment of mainland railways
The much-delayed multibillion-dollar Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge will accommodate up to 26 per cent less traffic in 2030 than previously estimated because of keen competition expected from another mainland bridge and China’s national railway, the government conceded on Monday.
The Transport and Housing Bureau admitted that estimates it gave for traffic usage earlier in the year were based on the latest consultancy study, from 2016, and not an outdated report as lawmakers were led to believe.
When transport minister Frank Chan Fan discussed bridge usage figures in the Legislative Council in January, he did not say his projections were from the 2016 report, giving the impression that the estimates were from a 2008 consultancy study.
The bridge, into which Hong Kong invested about HK$120 billion (US$15.4 billion), is expected to open some time this year after a delay of about 18 months.
The 2016 report estimated that 29,100 vehicles and 126,000 passengers would cross the bridge daily in 2030. That is down 12 per cent and 26 per cent respectively from the 33,100 vehicles and 171,800 passenger trips projected by the 2008 study.
The government did not give updated estimates for the bridge’s initial usage with Chan saying there was not much “material meaning” in making projections given that it would open soon.
In a reply to the Post’s inquiries, the bureau admitted that the mid- to long-term projections had been adjusted downwards due to several reasons including competition from the Shenzhen-Zhongshan bridge and the rapid redevelopment of mainland railways.
Beijing-based Huajie Engineering Consultation conducted the 2016 study.
“According to the consultant, there were several reasons for the difference between its latest projections and the 2008 consultancy study. They included the construction of the Shenzhen-Zhongshan bridge; the declining trend of cross-border land transport of goods in recent years; and the rapid development of mainland rail in recent years,” the bureau said.
Using the mega bridge, travel from Zhuhai to Hong Kong International Airport is expected to take 45 minutes – compared to the current four hours.
The bridge linking Shenzhen and Zhongshan, expected to be completed by 2024, will cut travel time between the two cities from two hours to 20 minutes.
Liberal Party lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming, who represents the transport sector, said the Shenzhen bridge was expected to carve up some business from the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. He said Hong Kong had refused to include Shenzhen in the mega bridge’s initial planning, prompting the Shenzhen government to build its own bridge instead.
“Now that the central government will soon announce policies for the development of the ‘Greater Bay Area’ which Hong Kong is part of, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge will surely have a role to play. We will propose measures to boost traffic for the bridge to complement the bay area development,” he said.
The bureau added that it would monitor the bridge’s utilisation rate and consider suitable measures to bring its benefits into full play.