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Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

Delay in building main road to Hong Kong Port sparks congestion fears as bridge to Macau prepares to open

Vehicles planning to use Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau link will be diverted down auxiliary road, raising fears infrastructure near airport might struggle to cope

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 8:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 12:19pm

The long-awaited Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge may be ready to open soon, but the main road to its Hong Kong Port will be delayed until next year sparking fears an auxiliary road near the airport will become heavily congested, the Post has learned.

According to a source, the southern connection of the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Lok link – the quickest access near Tai Ho that shortens travelling time to the port – would not be completed by this year as the ­government had planned.

Before the main road’s opening, all vehicles going to the port on an artificial island off Chek Lap Kok will be squeezed onto a two-lane single carriageway near SkyCity, a commercial complex next to Hong Kong International Airport. The port is where customs and immigration facilities are located.

“But this single carriageway is very narrow as it originally serves as an auxiliary road to the bridge. Compared to the main road, it will take at least 10 to 15 minutes longer to the Hong Kong Port,” the source said.

“Transport industry players are really worried that it can’t cope with the bridge traffic and could cause severe congestion.”

The source accused the government of botching work on the supporting measures, such as the connecting roads to the boundary crossing facilities.

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“We will face a situation that the bridge is open, but the main road connecting to it is closed. The use of the narrow auxiliary road near SkyCity will greatly affect the traffic flow of the bridge and the efficiency of commercial vehicles,” the source said.

On Friday, the Post saw employees in three trucks working on asphalt paving for the southern connection.

A Transport Department spokesman said it was still checking if the main road would be completed this year.

In May, the department admitted the main road could not be commissioned during the initial stage of the mega bridge’s operation this year. So far the central authorities have yet to announce the opening date of the multibillion-dollar bridge.

“The Highways Department is striving for early completion of the main line of the southern connection … The main line is expected to be completed this year,” the Transport Department said in a statement in May.

The government has not given updated estimates for the bridge’s initial usage, but a 2016 consultancy report estimated that 29,100 vehicles and 126,000 passengers would cross it daily by 2030.

Temporary traffic arrangements will be in place to offset the delays to the main road, including issuing closed road permits in phases for Hong Kong private cars using the bridge.

Out of a total of 10,000 permits for private cars, only 5,000 will be issued before the bridge’s ­opening.

A further 3,000 permits will be issued three months after it opens, and the remaining 2,000 permits after the operation of the main road.

The source said the government originally planned to issue 20,000 to 30,000 permits for private cars, but because of the delays to the main road it decided to cut the number, and implement the measure in phases.

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The department said, if necessary, franchised buses travelling to and from the port would be diverted to connecting roads with lower traffic projections.

“The temporary traffic arrangements aim to ensure smooth traffic at the bridge during the initial stage of its operation. The impact of such arrangements is expected to be minimal and temporary,” it said.

The bridge, in which Hong Kong has invested about HK$120 billion (US$15.4 billion), is expected to open some time this year after a delay of almost two years.

Friday marked the first day of a three-day drill at the bridge involving about 40 vehicles from the three cities, and cross-border coaches to test the route, signalling and computer systems, passenger capacity, and customs and immigration clearance at the three sides.

The Hong Kong government has sent more than 300 officers from various departments, including transport, highways, police, customs, immigration and security, to participate.

A Transport and Housing Bureau spokesman said the three governments had been working towards the commissioning of the bridge.

“After the three governments report to the central government, and seek its confirmation of an opening date, we will make an announcement as soon as possible,” he said.

The 55km bridge will put the three cities within an hour’s commute of each other, and facilitate the integration of the Pearl River Delta region.