Bridge delayed: Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau link meant to slash travel time will miss 2016 deadline

Was it a bridge too far? One of the world’s longest bridge projects hits engineering problems

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 November, 2015, 2:30am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 December, 2015, 3:34pm

A bridge linking Hong Kong to Macau and Zhuhai and for which the city has budgeted HK$117 billion for its construction will miss its 2016 deadline by a year, the Hong Kong government has confirmed.

The Hong Kong boundary crossing facilities and link road won’t be completed by the end of 2016 according to the current progress of construction, the Highways Department confirmed for the first time in a statement responding to media enquiries last night.

Referring to the project as "huge and complicated", the department said there were many technical challenges during both the design and construction stages.

READ MORE: Economic benefits of bridge linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau could be huge, experts tell debate

The statement said the bridge's completion would be pushed back until the end of 2017 because of unstable material supplies and shortages of labour, as well as dealing with aviation height limits, environmental protection requirements and slower than expected progress in land reclamation.

Infographics: Three cities, one bridge

The construction of the main bridge began in December 2009. After a delay caused by a legal challenge regarding the environmental impact of the bridge, construction on the Hong Kong side began in December 2011.

The 50 kilometre link consists of three cable-stayed bridges, two artificial islands, and a 6.7km-long immersed tube tunnel, situated off Lantau Island.

The longest bridge section would be 29.6km long and would include three cable-stayed bridges, one of which would span 458 metres.

The costs of the bridge are to be split between Hong Kong, Macau and mainland authorities. Hong Kong’s contribution, including a new island, comes to about HK$117 billion. The link would cut travel time to Zhuhai from more than three hours to 30 minutes.

The department said last night the governments of the three cities and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Authority were still conducting assessments to forecast the inauguration of the link.

Earlier this year, the Hong Kong government had hinted there might be a delay in completing the link.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said on January 16 that the target of 2016 year end would be missed in the face of several difficulties and challenges and the Highways Department had yet to assess the estimated date of the completion.

READ MORE: Bridge project on man-made island breached environmental permit, says Hong Kong green group

In March, Li Chunhong, the director general of Guangdong’s Development and Reform Commission also admitted the link might not open until 2020 due to technical challenges with a warning that more problems could arise.

He added that sinking and docking the tunnel section were the most complicated part of the project.