Expert team did not meet to discuss Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge safety fears
Legislators use special meeting to cast doubt on government assurances that artificial island safely protected, after worries concrete protection was drifting into sea
The expert team advising on construction of the bridge linking Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau never even met to discuss recent worries that an artificial island integral to the bridge’s structure could collapse for lack of protection from the sea.
Director of Highways Daniel Chung Kum-wah made that revelation during a special Legislative Council Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday. There, lawmakers cast doubt on government assurances that breakwaters protecting the island were structurally sound.
Concerns surfaced earlier this month after aerial photos appeared to show that interlocking concrete blocks, known as dolosse, placed around the edges of the artificial island had drifted away. The island connects the Hong Kong bridge section to a tunnel in mainland waters.
The apparent movement raised fears that the undersea tunnel could collapse because of insufficient protection.
Mainland China’s Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Authority, which is managing the multibillion-dollar project, has since issued two statements to dismiss safety concerns.
The city’s top officials also tried to allay public fears. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor called the island’s stability “scientifically proven”. And, after a visit to the island, Chung concluded the positioning of the dolosse was “scientific, reasonable and safe”.
But local experts still questioned how the concrete blocks could protect the island if they were submerged randomly, as the authorities had claimed.
Lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung of the Labour Party was also unconvinced, asking if there was a report from the authority’s expert team to confirm that the wave-absorbing structure was safe.
Chung admitted the 40-member team – responsible for advising the authority on technical matters about the project – never discussed the recent concerns.
“This technical expert team is responsible for scrutinising important technical and design matters about the bridge project. But they don’t hold meetings regularly. So far they haven’t had any meetings to look into this safety concern,” he said.
The Civic Party’s Kwok Ka-ki criticised the government for not arranging a visit to the island for legislators. Transport and Housing Secretary Frank Chan Fan pledged to make that happen in due course.
The government raised eyebrows recently as it revealed that the maintenance cost for the Hong Kong section of the bridge for this financial year was estimated at HK$270 million.
Pro-democracy legislator Raymond Chan Chi-chuen asked why there would be such a high forecast for the Hong Kong section’s maintenance when the bridge had not even opened.
Chung replied that, as the bridge was expected to open some time this year, the government had set aside money for maintenance costs.