When President Xi Jinping opened the mega bridge connecting Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau on Tuesday, property tycoon Gordon Wu Ying-sheung finally saw a project he first mooted 35 years ago come to fruition. The 82-year-old founder and chairman of developer Hopewell Holdings, who brought up the idea of a bridge with the Zhuhai municipal government way back in 1983, was among some 700 guests, including state leaders, marking the opening of the project, a milestone in Beijing’s broader push to integrate the region. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor , who entered the ceremony hall in Zhuhai side by side with Xi, gave a five-minute speech. Despite the big celebrations, there was no tour of the bridge, which had been hit by a two-year delay and a cost overrun of billions of dollars. “The quality of the bridge is very good from design to construction,” an upbeat Wu said before the ceremony started on Tuesday morning at immigration clearance facilities in Zhuhai. Xi’s short speech declares China’s 55km mega bridge open “It fulfils the dream, the dream of residents of the ‘ Greater Bay Area ’,” he added, referring to the national development scheme aimed at integrating Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province into an innovation powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley. Wu, known as a trailblazer, was among the first wave of Hong Kong investors to plough money into infrastructure projects in Guangdong in the 1980s. For example, Hopewell built a 122km expressway connecting Guangzhou and Shenzhen which subsequently became a key gateway to the Pearl River Delta, an area dubbed the factory of the world. In 1983, Wu pushed the idea of building a bridge in the Pearl River Delta to close a missing link in the transport loop. Almost 20 years on, in 2002, he was quoted by the Post as saying the bridge could strengthen Hong Kong’s status as the major port in the delta region. How can Hongkongers use the 55km mega bridge? It was not until 2003 that the Chinese state planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, and the Hong Kong government commissioned a study on what transport links were needed across the Pearl River region. After a years-long feasibility study on the project, construction started in 2009 on the main bridge in mainland China while in Hong Kong, work began in 2011. The 55km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge was finally completed recently, putting the three cities within an hour’s commute of each other. Hong Kong’s bill for the project stands at HK$120 billion, including related infrastructure. ‘Unique and beautiful’ design sets mega bridge apart, engineer says The cost of the main bridge was shared among the three governments, but it exceeded its budget by 26 per cent, to 48.07 billion yuan (US$6.92 billion). This resulted in Hong Kong paying 2 billion yuan for its share of extra costs, taking its total contribution to about HK$10 billion (US$1.28 billion). Construction was also blighted by accidents and corruption. Another historic event takes place at 9am on Wednesday when the bridge is opened to traffic. Hong Kong’s checkpoint is at a border-crossing facility on an artificial island near Hong Kong International Airport while Macau and Zhuhai have their checkpoints at their border.